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Long road to Paris off to a good start for USA Basketball

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Stephen Curry drove to the basket, dropped the ball in, was fouled and fell to the ground after contact.

He noticed that photographers on the field were nearby. So he decided to go viral.

Curry posed for a few seconds — one hand on his hip, the other next to his head, staring wide-eyed at the cameras — before standing up. The performer put on a show in his first game with the U.S. Olympic basketball team, scoring 12 points in 19 minutes and helping the Americans beat Canada 86-72 in the show opener Wednesday night.

“I’m just having fun,” Curry said. “I got to the basket and I slipped. I was trying to get back up but I tripped, so I just wanted to pose and give myself a second. You know I like to have fun and enjoy myself, and it didn’t take long for me to get my chance tonight.”

There was a lot to like about the Americans’ early preparations for the Paris Olympics, but to be fair, there was also a lot to dislike.

First, they won. All 10 players present contributed; all but Joel Embiid, who was limited to just 12 minutes because of foul trouble, played between 17 and 21 minutes. There were highlights — social media went wild for the Curry pose and LeBron James’ follow-up blog That led to a Devin Booker three-pointer, and there were a lot of mistakes that could have been quickly corrected.

“We had to set a tone for how we wanted to play,” USA coach Steve Kerr said. “And I think we did that.”

And now the real work begins.

The team flies to Abu Dhabi on Thursday for a few days of training and two exhibition games, the next stop on its pre-Olympic tour. Kawhi Leonard won’t be on the plane; the Americans decided it wasn’t in his best interest to try to play this summer, so they replaced him with Derrick White, who leaves in a few days.

All of this happened Tuesday night, as the U.S. Basketball Association was celebrating its 50th anniversary with a gala and President Barack Obama was one of the speakers, telling the team what it meant to represent the country on the Olympic stage.

“I think it’s always a pleasure to talk to one of the greatest people this world has ever seen,” James said. “His vision, his mindset, his words always resonate, in more ways than one. To be able to sit down and have a conversation with a former president, a friend of mine who I call a really close friend, is pretty awesome.”

Obama was one of more than 20,000 people who turned out Wednesday night to watch a spectacular practice game at the arena in Las Vegas. USA Basketball said it was the largest crowd in the arena’s history. There were chants of “USA! USA!” and former gold medalists and gold-medal-winning coaches like Mike Krzyzewski sat courtside.

“The night set the tone,” Kerr said. “And now Americans are leaving the U.S. for a month on their fifth consecutive gold quest.”

“It’s always a fun format when you get this group of guys together,” Curry said. “It’s a test and a challenge to try to figure out the chemistry, the flow and the rhythm.”

So far, so good.

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AP Summer Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2024-paris-olympic-games