Jayson Tatum sprained his ankle in the final seconds of Team USA’s overtime win against Turkey. However, he walked out of the USA locker room after without much of a limp, and Celtics’ coach Brad Stevens called the ankle sprain “moderate.”
That’s still enough to keep Tatum out at least five days — or two games — USA Basketball announced on Wednesday. John Schuhmann of NBA.com is in Shanghai with the team and broke it all down.
The first game Tatum misses is a meaningless game against Japan that the USA should win comfortably without him (the USA has already clinched its way to the second round, and Japan lost to the Czech Republic 89-76, that’s a Czech squad the USA beat by 21).
The second game he misses will be the start of the second round, and he could miss both games of that round.
(If you’re confused by the format, welcome to FIBA. Here’s how it works: There are four teams in each first-round group, with the top two teams from each group advancing to the second round. That second round is another four-team group made up of those top two teams — meaning in this case the USA and the winner of Turkey vs. the Czech Republic — and the top two teams from another group, however, your record from the first round carries over and the USA only plays the teams from the other group. Which for the USA means playing Brazil and probably Greece and Giannis Antetokounmpo. From that group, the top two teams advance to an eight-team knockout style tournament.)
Tatum has played a fairly important role for Gregg Popovich and Team USA, starting both games and averaging 24.5 minutes and 10.5 points a game. He was on the court at the end of regulation against Turkey when he was fouled on a three-point attempt with 0.1 seconds left and the USA down two (he hit two of the free throws to force overtime). In overtime he was on the court at the end again, getting fouled on the play that sprained his ankle.
The USA will miss Tatum’s length, scoring, and defense in the second round, especially against a step up in quality of opponents.
The good news for the Celtics is this does not look like the kind of injury that will linger into the season. Boston’s Stevens downplayed the risk of injury for guys playing for Team USA, noting that injuries can happen anywhere at any time (just ask DeMarcus Cousins).