LeBron James decision could sway Olympic basketball tournament
Chairman Jerry Colangelo remains confident with or without Cavs star
With Stephen Curry out of the running for the Olympics, attention shifts to the other superstar in the NBA Finals.
The basketball world again waits on a LeBron James decision, and this one could determine just how powerful the U.S. team is heading to Rio.
The roster is nearing completion, nearly three weeks before the deadline. But it's also on hold until James makes up his mind.
"That's an important decision," USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said Monday.
Colangelo added that he's realistically down to 14 or 15 players under consideration for the 12 spots, with somebody either getting bumped up or bumped off based on what James decides.
"So LeBron is a swing," Colangelo said in a phone interview. "If he doesn't play, then we have to tweak it."
Potential roster implications
Colangelo will give James time, and he's indicated the answer won't come until after the finals. If Cleveland can make it a long series, the Americans won't have long to react if James passes on a fourth Olympics.
Game 7 would be June 19, and the U.S. is planning to announce its team June 27. Colangelo said Monday he's working on two rosters, one with James and one without.
The original list of 31 players features plenty of enticing choices at forward: Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, Draymond Green and Kevin Love are among the options to help the U.S. cope if it didn't have James. Curry's teammates Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala and Houston's James Harden also could move from guard to forward in some lineups.
"I don't worry. I don't," Colangelo said, pointing to the Americans' depth. "I just feel very confident."
But no player can match the Olympic resume of James, the Americans' career leader in points and assists who could join Anthony as their only four-time Olympic basketball players.
Reigning NBA MVP already out
Curry has won a pair of FIBA World Cups and had spoken about wanting the chance to win Olympic gold, but the two-time NBA MVP withdrew from consideration Monday for what would have been his first Olympics, citing "several factors — including recent ankle and knee injuries."
He didn't say what the other factors were. Several athletes have expressed concerns about the water in Rio de Janeiro and the Zika virus, though Colangelo said no players have pulled out because of those.
"All injuries," he said.
Still, those other factors would make it easier for players if they choose to withdraw, without the usual criticism they face when declining to represent their countries, as Durant did in his late withdrawal from the 2014 Basketball World Cup.
Colangelo said USA Basketball is continually checking in with players to gauge their interest, believing everyone who hasn't pulled out yet is interested if selected. And he can't worry about the ones already gone.
"You know what, you've got to be a big boy about it," Colangelo said. "These are the cards that are dealt."