Vice President Harris visits the US Olympic basketball training. Her message: “Bring back the gold”

By TIM REYNOLDS – AP Basketball Writer

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Vice President Kamala Harris was a surprise guest at the U.S. men’s Olympic basketball team practice on Tuesday, and her message was clear.

“Bring back the gold,” Harris said.

Harris, who flew to Las Vegas on Tuesday for campaign appearances, gave a brief address to the team at the end of the fourth and final practice session of training camp. She has long said she is a fan of the Golden State Warriors; the U.S. team is coached by Steve Kerr of the Warriors and includes Warriors guard Stephen Curry.

“It’s a great reminder that we’re playing for our country,” said Kerr, who has met Harris several times because of her Warriors fandom. “Vice President Harris told the guys how much she admired them, how much they really embody excellence and that we’re going there to try to win a gold medal for our country.”

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Harris shook hands with the players, chatted briefly with LeBron James and several others, and posed for a group photo with the team.

“You all truly represent the best of the best,” Harris told them. “And Team USA is about representing our nation. You are, as you are every day on and off the court, ambassadors for who we are as a country. You represent leaders from all walks of life. And for you to go to Paris and bring back this gold is just another example of your excellence, your teamwork, your compassion and your commitment.”

U.S. assistant coach Erik Spoelstra said he did not know the vice president would come to practice.

“It was a very special moment for the whole group,” Spoelstra said. “She just mentioned that we are representing our country and everyone is going to be watching and cheering us on and that it’s a big responsibility. But she knows that we’re all working hard to represent everyone here and to do it with class.”

Harris plans to meet with voters in Las Vegas and Dallas this week and faces particular attention from Democrats who are scrutinizing her prospects as a possible successor to President Joe Biden, who is resisting calls for him to step down.

The U.S. men’s team will play its first of five pre-Olympic friendlies against Canada in Las Vegas on Wednesday. Although this game has no bearing on the Olympics – the U.S.’ first game in France is against Serbia on July 28 – Harris encouraged the team to go out and win now.

“Our nation is cheering you on and we are so proud of you,” Harris said. “Beat Canada and take back the gold.”

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