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USA Basketball down to 14 or 15 players, waits for LeBron decision

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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.”

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 Americans are planning to announce their team on June 27. So Colangelo said Monday that he’s working on two rosters, one with James and one without.

The original list of 31 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.

“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.

Curry 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 situation in Rio de Janeiro and the Zika virus, though Colangelo said no players have pulled out because of those.

“All injuries,” he said.

Curry is the highest-profile absence for the two-time defending gold medalists, who will already be without NBA All-Stars Chris Paul and Anthony Davis. Forwards Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge are also unavailable, leaving DeMarcus Cousins, Andre Drummond, Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan as big men options.

Paul, who won two golds with the U.S., had already opted not to play this time, and fellow point guards John Wall of Washington and Mike Conley of Memphis are coming off injuries. The Americans still have Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving and Portland’s Damian Lillard as possibilities at the position.

Curry likely would have started either ahead of them or alongside one in the U.S. backcourt, as he did as the shooting guard next to Irving at the 2014 Basketball World Cup. He made 43.8 percent of his attempts then from the shorter international 3-point arc, and the Americans will miss his shooting against the zone defenses they face.

Curry has won a pair of world titles and had spoken of wanting the chance to win Olympic gold, but he missed six games in the postseason with a right knee injury.

“My previous experiences with USA Basketball have been incredibly rewarding, educational and enjoyable, which made this an extremely difficult decision for me and my family,” Curry said.

“However, due to several factors — including recent ankle and knee injuries — I believe this is the best decision for me at this stage of my career.”

Curry, the first player to be voted a unanimous MVP and the NBA’s leading scorer, could have been the team’s biggest star in Rio, with Kobe Bryant retired and James still uncommitted. Perhaps it could be Durant, who starred for the Americans in the 2012 Olympics and 2010 World Cup before dropping out in 2014 after George’s broken right leg.

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.”

MORE: U.S. Olympic basketball game times announced

U.S. Olympic women’s tennis qualifying already looks intense

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Serena Williams is in strong early position to make the 2020 U.S. Olympic team. For everyone else, including older sister Venus Williams, every set of ranking points could be crucial over the next 10 months, including at the upcoming U.S. Open.

The U.S. has seven women in the world top 36 — not including 52nd-ranked Venus — but only four singles players can go to an Olympics from any one country come the rankings cutoff next June.

Serena Williams leads the way for Americans in second place overall in Olympic qualifying — which counts WTA rankings points starting after the 2019 French Open and running through the 2020 French Open. She has 1,885 points despite playing just two events the last two months, taking runner-up at Wimbledon and the Canadian Open.

Only Wimbledon champion Simona Halep, who has already been named Romania’s Opening Ceremony flag bearer, has more Olympic qualifying points (2,395).

After Serena, three more U.S. women are in the top 10 in Olympic qualifying — Sonya Kenin (No. 5), Madison Keys (No. 8) and Alison Riske (No. 10).

Keys, a quarterfinalist or better at all four Grand Slams in her career, jumped from outside the top 20 among Americans to the No. 3 American by notching her biggest title in Ohio last week.

Notables who must improve their ranking start with Venus Williams, who moved from 18th on the U.S. list to eighth by reaching the Cincinnati quarterfinals. She turns 40 before the Tokyo Games and could become the oldest Olympic singles player since the sport returned to the Olympic program following a 64-year break in 1988. She already owns the modern-era record of five Olympic tennis medals from her five previous Games and could still get to the Olympics in doubles if she doesn’t qualify in singles.

Sloane Stephens, the 2017 U.S. Open champion, is 12th in U.S. Olympic qualifying, winning a total of three matches among four tournaments in the window.

The veterans Williams sisters, Keys and Stephens, who made up the 2016 U.S. Olympic singles team, must fend off an emerging class.

Kenin, 20, backed up her French Open upset of Serena Williams by winning a lower-level event in June and then beating the world Nos. 1 and 2 the last two weeks.

Riske is playing some of the best tennis of her career at age 29. She beat world then-No. 1 Ash Barty to make her first Slam quarterfinal at Wimbledon, a week before her wedding.

Then there are two of the phenoms of the year. Coco Gauff, 15, is ninth in U.S. Olympic qualifying after a run to the Wimbledon fourth round. Gauff was granted a wild card into the U.S. Open, after which she can’t play in more than five senior tournaments (and possibly no more than three) until her 16th birthday in March due to WTA age restrictions to keep young teens from burnout.

Amanda Anisimova, 17, is 13th in U.S. Olympic qualifying. Her best results this year — French Open semifinal, Australian Open fourth round — came before the Olympic qualifying window.

It’s looking like the toughest U.S. Olympic women’s singles team to make outright since 2004. Back then, the U.S. had Nos. 4 (Lindsay Davenport), 7 (Jennifer Capriati), 8 (Venus Williams), 11 (Serena Williams) and 18 (Chanda Rubin). Davenport, Capriati and Serena didn’t play at the Athens Games, opening the door for Lisa Raymond to play singles and doubles in Athens.

In 2000, Serena Williams didn’t make the Olympic singles field despite being ranked eighth in the world. A max of three players per nation were taken to Sydney, and the U.S. had Nos. 2, 3 and 6 in Davenport, Venus Williams and Monica Seles.

An Olympic rule mandating a minimum of Fed Cup appearances could affect Tokyo 2020 eligibility. However, the fine print allows for that to be bypassed in discretionary exceptional circumstances.

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U.S. Olympic Women’s Singles Qualifying Standings (Max. 4 can qualify)
1. Serena Williams — 1,885 points
2. Sonya Kenin — 1,081
3. Madison Keys — 972
4. Alison Riske — 802
5. Jennifer Brady — 356
6. Jessica Pegula — 348
7. Madison Brengle — 344
8. Venus Williams — 302
9. Coco Cauff — 298
10. Bernarda Pera — 280
11. Lauren Davis — 245
12. Sloane Stephens — 238
13. Amanda Anisimova — 230

U.S. athletes qualified for 2020 Tokyo Olympics

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The U.S. Olympic team roster for the 2020 Tokyo Games will eventually reach more than 500 athletes. It is currently at seven.

Qualifying competitions and Olympic Trials events dot the schedule from now into early summer 2020.

Athletes qualified so far:

Modern Pentathlon
Samantha Achterberg
Amro Elgeziry

Sport Climbing
Brooke Raboutou

Swimming
Haley Anderson
Ashley Twichell
Jordan Wilimovsky

Triathlon
Summer Rappaport

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