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

Teri McKeever fired by Cal as women’s swimming coach after investigation

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Teri McKeever, the first woman to serve as a U.S. Olympic swimming head coach, was fired by the University of California at Berkeley after an investigation into alleged verbal and emotional abuse of swimmers that she denied.

McKeever was put on paid administrative leave from her job as head women’s swimming coach in May after an Orange County Register report that 20 current or former Cal swimmers said McKeever verbally and emotionally bullied her swimmers.

Cal athletics director Jim Knowlton wrote in a letter to the Cal team and staff that a resulting independent law firm report detailed “verbally abusive conduct that is antithetical to our most important values.”

“I strongly believe this is in the best interests of our student-athletes, our swimming program and Cal Athletics as a whole,” Knowlton said of McKeever’s firing in a press release. “The report details numerous violations of university policies that prohibit race, national origin and disability discrimination.”

The Orange County Register first published what it says is the full independent report here with redactions.

“I deny and unequivocally refute all conclusions that I abused or bullied any athlete and deny any suggestion I discriminated against any athlete on the basis of race, disability or sexual orientation,” McKeever said in a statement Tuesday confirming her firing and expressing disappointment in how the investigation was conducted. “While I am disappointed in the way my CAL Career will conclude, I wish to thank and celebrate the many student-athletes and staff that made my time in Berkeley a true blessing and gift.”

McKeever’s lawyer wrote that McKeever “will be filing suit to expose the manner in which gender has affected not only the evaluation of her coaching but harmed and continues to harm both female and male athletes.”

McKeever led Cal women’s swimming and diving for nearly 30 years, winning four NCAA team titles and coaching Olympic champions including Missy FranklinNatalie Coughlin and Dana Vollmer.

In 2004, she became the first woman to be on a U.S. Olympic swim team coaching staff, as an assistant. In 2012, she became the first woman to be head coach of a U.S. Olympic swim team. She was an assistant again for the Tokyo Games.

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Diana Taurasi returns to U.S. national basketball team

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Diana Taurasi is set to return to the U.S. national basketball team next week for the first time since the Tokyo Olympics, signaling a possible bid for a record-breaking sixth Olympic appearance in 2024 at age 42.

Taurasi is on the 15-player roster for next week’s training camp in Minnesota announced Tuesday.

Brittney Griner is not on the list but is expected to return to competitive basketball later this year with her WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury (also Taurasi’s longtime team, though she is currently a free agent), after being detained in Russia for 10 months in 2022.

Taurasi said as far back as the 2016 Rio Games that her Olympic career was likely over, but returned to the national team after Dawn Staley succeeded Geno Auriemma as head coach in 2017.

In Tokyo, Taurasi and longtime backcourt partner Sue Bird became the first basketball players to win five Olympic gold medals. Bird has since retired.

After beating Japan in the final, Taurasi said “see you in Paris,” smiling, as she left an NBC interview. That’s now looking less like a joke and more like a prediction.

Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve succeeded Staley as head coach last year. In early fall, she guided the U.S. to arguably the best FIBA World Cup performance ever, despite not having stalwarts Bird, Griner, Tina Charles and Sylvia Fowles.

Taurasi was not in contention for the team after suffering a WNBA season-ending quad injury in the summer. Taurasi, who is 38-0 in Olympic games and started every game at the last four Olympics, wasn’t on a U.S. team for an Olympics or worlds for the first time since 2002.

Next year, Taurasi can become the oldest Olympic basketball player in history and the first to play in six Games, according to Olympedia.org. Spain’s Rudy Fernandez could also play in a sixth Olympics in 2024.

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