September 26, 2023

Brighton Journal

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LeBron James ready to commit to 2024 Olympic team and recruit fellow stars: Sources

LeBron James ready to commit to 2024 Olympic team and recruit fellow stars: Sources

MANILA, Philippines — In a happier time for American basketball, when gold medals were draped around the necks of a mix of triumphant American stars and role players at the Tokyo Olympics, speculation was already rife that the Paris Games would attract this country’s national team. better.

Less than a year away from the 2024 Olympics, and with the United States coming off a disappointing fourth-place finish at the FIBA ​​World Cup on Sunday, with only three current stars and no one with previous men’s national team experience on the roster, those old Parisians seem to be… Predictions are closer to being fulfilled.

Three-time Olympian, two-time gold medalist and NBA all-time leading scorer LeBron James has such a strong interest in making another Olympics that he is ready to commit to it next summer, and he has also called on several stars to be drafted primarily. Multiple league sources said they are joining him with USAB in Paris The athlete.

James has spoken to Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, Jayson Tatum, and Draymond Green, and they are all willing to commit as well. Separately, Phoenix’s Devin Booker and Portland’s Damian Lillard, Sacramento’s De’Aaron Fox and Dallas’ Kyrie Irving have serious interest in committing, league sources said.

James’s efforts began long before the United States team, led by Anthony Edwards and Mikal Bridges, lost the World Cup, and had nothing to do with whether the team won or lost this summer. While the USA team has struggled in the last two World Cups, the program has won four straight Olympic gold medals.

James, who has not played for Team USA since the 2012 London Olympics and will turn 39 in December, and Durant, a three-time Olympic and gold medalist who will turn 35 by next summer, view the Paris Games as “the last “. “Dancing” with USA Basketball, sources said.

Curry, who will be 36 years old, has not participated in any Olympics before, but he won the World Cup twice in 2010 and 2014 with the American national team, and he will see the same thing next summer. Sources said James, Durant and Curry have spoken to each other about one last tour of the USA together.

Tatum, Green and Lillard were gold medalists in Tokyo, and Durant was the best player on that team.

USA Basketball managing director Grant Hill is aware of the interest from James and other well-known American stars, but declined to comment further on the matter. The athlete.

Overall, many American officials readily admit that not only will the Paris team look different from the team that just finished the World Cup, but the next edition will likely come with much greater star power.

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Hill spent last NBA season in talks with players on a dual track: one to fill out the 2023 World Cup roster and the other to begin recruiting for Paris.

After the USA team was eliminated from title contention last week by Germany, USA coach Steve Kerr was asked about the Americans’ new trend in roster turnover from summer to summer.

“Part of the deal with USAB is to pass the baton to the next coaching staff, the next group of players,” Kerr said, “and we are unique in that we have a great talent pool and a lot of very deserving players.” I believe these players and coaches all deserve the honor of wearing a USA jersey.

If these older NBA stars actually play with Kerr next summer in Paris, it will be a passing of the baton backwards.

James played for Team USA from 2004 to 2008 and returned for the London Games. In addition to Durant’s three Olympics, he was also part of the 2010 World Championship team. Green is a two-time gold medalist. Davis won the gold medal with James in 2012 and a world title with Curry in 2014. Tatum won the gold medal in 2021 and was on the 2019 World Cup squad.

But rampant speculation and imminent commitments — even if the aforementioned players appear at NBA media days and declare themselves “signed” for 2024 — don’t necessarily mean these more established stars will be in Paris.

For example, in the wake of the 2019 World Cup, where the Americans finished a disappointing seventh and fielded a roster of players who at the time were not considered List A (Tatum did not reach that level until after the World Cup), many Stars, including James, have expressed interest in starting their NBA training camps to play for Team USA at the Tokyo Games.

Of those, only Durant followed suit and was on the floor in 2021. It’s true that the Tokyo Games were postponed a year due to the coronavirus, and pandemic protocols were still in place when those Olympics were eventually held, but there’s no doubt about that. An American star in October could change by July.

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The Olympics begin on July 26, 2024, and Team USA is expected to have a full training camp and pre-season tour of several countries before arriving in France. If any of the stars interested in making a deep playoff run, they will be committing their time and bodies significantly after a grueling season. James, Davis, Durant, Curry and even Lillard have suffered extensive injuries over the past few years.

Finally, the first part of the Olympic basketball tournament is not in Paris. It’s common knowledge, but few NBA stars might realize that the prelims will be held in Lille, France, an hour and 40 minutes by train north from Paris.

The medal rounds will be held in Paris, but romanticizing the “last dance” of some American basketball legends in one of the most beautiful cities in the world is only half the truth. The nights will be spent in the industrial city of Lille, not far from Belgium.

Because of all these factors, Hill, Kerr (who coaches Curry and Green on the Warriors) and longtime general manager Sean Ford will need to continue conversations with all the players on the radar for 2024.

The Americans no longer produce an official “pool” of players eligible for the United States, and now build the national team by invitation only. They won’t be out until well after the NBA’s All-Star break, and in some cases much later, as part of that depends on whether any player’s commitment is conditional on an early playoff exit.

In theory, if James and every player he called were on Paris’ roster, that would leave Team USA six roster spots to fill. If Booker and Lillard are added, that would leave four spots.

Bam Adebayo, the 2021 Olympic gold medalist who almost played for the United States this summer, is widely considered a strong candidate for Paris.

Desmond Payne, a big, powerful two-way guard whose style is ideal for FIBA, would have made the World Cup team had he not had offseason foot surgery. It remains a possibility.

The prospect of convincing NBA MVP Joel Embiid to A.) ​​play in an international tournament; And B.) do it for Team USA instead of Team France, and it remains in play.

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Then there is the matter of considering players from the World Cup squad. Edwards, a shooting guard, is Team USA’s leading scorer. When asked last week if he would like to play in the Olympics, he said: “Yes, I definitely would.”

“I think I would never say no. It’s an honor,” said Bridges, a wing defender.

Finally, there is the issue of building a roster suitable for the international game. The Americans had no problem doing so at the Olympics, although the Tokyo Games included a loss to France and a narrow win over the French in the gold medal game, in addition to all sorts of problems at the World Cup.

The United States needed more post players to make an impact than it did going forward. The Americans had two 7-footers this summer in Jaren Jackson Jr. and Walker Kesler, but Jackson struggled largely as the only big in their four-guard lineup (he averaged just 2.8 rebounds per game), and Kesler barely played.

The size disadvantage was so evident this summer that in games against Montenegro, Lithuania and Germany, the USA was outscored on second-chance points by a score of 64-13.

So, when Kerr was asked over the weekend about building future rosters (he wasn’t asked specifically about James or the players he called up), he was asked if the lesson from the World Cup was that Team USA has to add more size.

“I think it’s a point worth discussing, but the discussion has to go to ‘OK, so who is this?'” Kerr said. “You can’t just say we’re going to get size for size’s sake. You have to have players who will help you win, and you have to identify who those people are. It’s not just about size, it’s about the way the game is played.

“I think for this team, our commitment was there and the character was unquestionable,” Kerr added. “We’re all very committed to the cause, but our advocacy wasn’t good enough. But I don’t think it’s as simple as saying it’s just volume. I think you have to examine who you’re talking about if you go down that path.”

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(Photo: EMPICS Sport/PA Images via Getty Images)