LeBron among 44 Olympic bas­ket­ball fi­nal­ists

Antelope Valley Press - - NUMBERS GAME - By TIM REYNOLDS

LeBron James is con­sid­er­ing a re­turn to the Olympics.

James — a two-time gold medal­ist and three-time Olympian — was among 44 play­ers an­nounced by USA Bas­ket­ball on Mon­day as fi­nal­ists for the team that will play in the Tokyo Games this sum­mer. James played in 2004, 2008 and 2012, help­ing the U.S. win gold in his most re­cent two ap­pear­ances.

The pool in­cludes 19 play­ers who have won a to­tal of 31 gold medals in ei­ther Olympic or World Cup com­pe­ti­tion for the Amer­i­cans — in­clud­ing nine play­ers who cap­tured the Olympic ti­tle for USA Bas­ket­ball in Rio de Janeiro four years ago.

“I’ve al­ways main­tained that eq­uity is important,” USA Bas­ket­ball manag­ing di­rec­tor Jerry Colan­gelo told The As­so­ci­ated Press. “And you earn eq­uity by par­tic­i­pat­ing. So, we think they’ve earned the right to be named to the over­all ros­ter for USA Bas­ket­ball. It’s pretty elite. It’s a tremen­dous pot and the good news is they’ve all said they want to play.”

James has played in 68 games for the U.S. na­tional team and has said sev­eral times over the past year or so that he is think­ing about an­other Olympics — af­ter sit­ting out the Rio Games for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons. Part of the in­ter­est in par­tic­i­pat­ing this sum­mer is to have the chance to play for U.S. coach Gregg Popovich of the San An­to­nio Spurs.

“It’s a pos­si­bil­ity,” James said in De­cem­ber.

There will be no try­outs. USA Bas­ket­ball will pare the list down to a 12-per­son Olympic team by early June, those de­ci­sions to be made by a se­lec­tion com­mit­tee — and to be based in part on player avail­abil­ity and health. Training camp will start in early July, po­ten­tially as lit­tle as two weeks af­ter the end of the NBA Fi­nals. The Olympics start July 24.

“I want to play,” said Port­land’s Damian Lil­lard, one of the fi­nal­ists. “I think, look­ing at my ca­reer and all the stuff I want to ac­com­plish be­fore it’s over, win­ning a gold medal at the Olympics is on the list. I was happy to see my name on there, obviously, and hope­fully I’ll be a part of the team.”

USA Bas­ket­ball of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing Colan­gelo and Popovich of the San An­to­nio Spurs, have met with play­ers in a va­ri­ety of ways over the past sev­eral weeks. Some talks have been di­rectly with play­ers, some with their agents, some with their NBA clubs, some­times a com­bi­na­tion thereof — and, Colan­gelo noted, there were some in­stances where play­ers reached out di­rectly to ex­press in­ter­est.

If they’re on the list, that means USA Bas­ket­ball is con­vinced they want to play.

“I feel very good about the re­sponse,” Colan­gelo said.

Also in­cluded in the pool: 15 of the 16 play­ers from the U.S. who are sched­uled to play in Sun­day’s NBA All-Star Game, and all 12 mem­bers of the team that rep­re­sented the U.S. at last sum­mer’s Bas­ket­ball World Cup in China — where the Amer­i­cans man­aged only a sev­enth-place fin­ish af­ter roughly three dozen play­ers who were on the list at some point dropped out along the way.

The nine play­ers still in the mix from the 2016 Olympic team: Sacra­mento’s Harrison Barnes, Mi­ami’s Jimmy But­ler, San An­to­nio’s DeMar DeRozan, Brook­lyn’s Kevin Du­rant and Kyrie Irv­ing, the Los Angeles Clip­pers’ Paul Ge­orge, Golden State’s Dray­mond Green and Klay Thomp­son, and Toronto’s Kyle Lowry.

As­so­ci­ated Press

BACK FOR U.S.? Lak­ers for­ward LeBron James goes to the bas­ket against the Sacra­mento Kings dur­ing the first quar­ter in Sacra­mento on Feb. 1. James is one of 44 U.S. Olympic bas­ket­ball fi­nal­ists.

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