LeBron James promoted his upcoming movie when asked if he will play at the Tokyo Olympics after his Los Angeles Lakers were eliminated from the NBA Playoffs.
“I think I’m going to play for the Tune Squad this summer instead of the Olympics,” James, referencing “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” said with a straight face before later smiling in his answer late Thursday night after a season-ending defeat to the Phoenix Suns. “I think that’s what my focus [is] on, trying to beat the Monstars, or the Goon Squad we call them now. So, didn’t have much success versus the Suns, so now I am gearing my attention to the Goon Squad here in July, mid-July.”
To be clear, the movie is due out in theaters in July, so filming has long since finished.
James, who at 36 is older than any previous U.S. Olympic men’s basketball player, said getting his injured ankle back to 100 percent is “the most important thing” for him this summer.
“I’ve got like three months to recalibrate,” he said in a perhaps more telling comment about his Tokyo prospects. The Olympics open in the middle of that time frame.
“I’m going to let the ankle rest for about a month,” James said later, “and then gear up with Lola, Taz, Granny, Bugs and the rest of the crew.”
James played at the Olympics in 2004, 2008 and 2012 before skipping the 2016 Rio Games to rest after leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to an NBA title.
He has been asked about the Tokyo Olympics several times since then but never committed, though having the respected Gregg Popovich as the new U.S. head coach made it appealing.
No NBA superstar has publicly committed to or taken his name out of consideration for the U.S. Olympic team.
Kawhi Leonard of the Los Angeles Clippers has come the closest to saying he would accept a roster spot if offered. Leonard previously played for Popovich’s San Antonio Spurs, but the Clippers are still alive in the playoffs and will likely advance to the conference semifinals.
The farther a team goes, the less likely it is the player makes himself available for the Olympics given the proximity to the July 23 Opening Ceremony.
In February, FIBA said that it and the IOC were reviewing a USA Basketball petition to change the rules for when Olympic men’s basketball rosters must be submitted.
ESPN reported that USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo said U.S. officials asked to allow roster changes closer to and even during the Olympics.
The NBA season started later and runs later this year. A potential NBA Finals Game 7 would be the day before the Opening Ceremony.
The current deadline for nations to submit Olympic teams is July 5, though there is a late athlete replacement policy that extends closer to the start of competition. This usually comes into play for injuries.
“These are not normal times. Rosters by a certain date doesn’t make any sense,” Colangelo said, according to ESPN.com. “What we’re seeking is flexibility to substitute players very late and to get the best players on the court. It doesn’t just apply to us but for all the countries.”
Complicating matters further, USA Basketball plans to hold a player training camp in early July in Las Vegas during the playoffs.
“It’s conceivable, there will be a few players who are competing in the Finals and want to participate, and we want them to participate,” Colangelo said, according to USA Today last week. “We’ll take inventory after each round. It’s possible that we don’t end up with 12 in Las Vegas, and we bring a couple of guys at the last minute.”
OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!