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LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry Top Preliminary Team USA Olympic Roster

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The 44 finalists to join the U.S. men’s basketball team at the Tokyo Olympics this summer were announced Sunday night.

Unsurprisingly, LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant are in the running. Other notable names are Houston Rockets All-Star duo James Harden and Russell Westbrook, Portland Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard and reigning NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard.

Durant has been out since Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals with a ruptured Achilles. The Golden State Warriors ultimately lost to a Toronto Raptors side led by Leonard before Leonard signed with the Los Angeles Clippers and KD went to the Brooklyn Nets last summer.

However, New Orleans Pelicans rookie No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson, Memphis Grizzlies rookie second overall pick Ja Morant and Atlanta Hawks All-Star point guard Trae Young were absent from the list.

Twenty-nine of the 44 finalists have combined for 31 Olympic or FIBA Basketball World Cup gold medals.

The final 12-player roster will be announced at a later date.

The lead-up to the 2019 FIBA World Cup proved how much can change from the preliminary roster to the final roster. Harden, Lillard, Bradley Beal, Anthony Davis, Tobias Harris, Kevin Love, CJ McCollum and JJ Redick were among stars to withdraw their names from consideration for the FIBA World Cup.

McCollum opened up on Adrian Wojnarowski’s ESPN podcast The Woj Pod as to why so many American stars were skipping the international tournament:

The U.S. finished seventh at the World Cup after losing 89-79 to France in the quarterfinals on Sept. 11.

Later in September, Curry cemented his interest in representing the U.S. at the 2020 Olympics during an interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols: “Definitely wanna go. I’ve never been on the Olympic team. I’ve been on two World Cup championship gold-medal teams. But the Olympics is the experience that I want. And next year will hopefully be it.”

Curry has been sidelined since Oct. 30 with a broken hand that required surgery.

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Around the same time as Curry’s comments, fellow Golden State Warriors All-Star Klay Thompson told The Athletic’s Marcus Thompson II that he “would love to be on the Olympic team” despite suffering a torn ACL during Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals.

Lillard also told News.com.au’s James McKern he plans “on being a part of that.”

However, USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo told reporters he would not forget who decided to skip last year’s FIBA World Cup:

“I can only say, you can’t help but notice and remember who you thought you were going to war with and who didn’t show up. … All we could have done, and we did it, is get the commitments from a lot of players. So with that kind of a hand, you feel reasonably confident that you’re going to be able to put a very good representative team on the court. No one would have anticipated the pullouts that we had.”

The Americans are three-time defending Olympic gold medalists. James was a member of the 2008 and 2012 gold-medal-winning squads, but the 2016 winners were led by Carmelo Anthony and Durant, while no other player on that roster had previously been to the Olympics.


LeBron James headlines star-studded list of 44 finalists for U.S. Olympic team

LeBron James is considering a return to the Olympics.

James — a two-time gold medalist and three-time Olympian — is among 44 players announced by USA Basketball on Monday as finalists for the team that will play in the Tokyo Games this summer. James played in 2004, 2008 and 2012, helping the U.S. win gold in his most recent two appearances.

The pool includes 19 players who have won a total of 31 gold medals in either Olympic or World Cup competition for the Americans — including nine players who captured the Olympic title for USA Basketball in Rio de Janeiro four years ago.

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“I’ve always maintained that equity is important,” USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo told The Associated Press. “And you earn equity by participating. So we think they’ve earned the right to be named to the overall roster for USA Basketball. It’s pretty elite. It’s a tremendous pot and the good news is they’ve all said they want to play.”

James has played in 68 games for the U.S. national team and has said several times over the past year or so that he is thinking about another Olympics — after sitting out the Rio Games for a variety of reasons. Part of the interest in participating this summer is to have the chance to play for U.S. coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs.

“It’s a possibility,” James said in December.

There will be no tryouts. USA Basketball will pare the list down to a 12-person Olympic team by early June, with those decisions to be made by a selection committee — and to be based in part on player availability and health. Training camp will start in early July, potentially as little as two weeks after the end of the NBA Finals. The Olympics start July 24.

USA Basketball officials, including Colangelo and Popovich, have met with players in a variety of ways over the past several weeks. Some talks have been directly with players, some with their agents, some with their NBA clubs, sometimes a combination thereof — and, Colangelo noted, there were some instances when players reached out directly to express interest.

If they’re on the list, that means USA Basketball is convinced they want to play.

“I feel very good about the response,” Colangelo said.

Also included in the pool: 15 of the 16 players from the U.S. who are scheduled to play in Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game, and all 12 members of the team that represented the U.S. at last summer’s Basketball World Cup in China, where the Americans managed only a seventh-place finish after roughly three dozen players who were on the list at some point dropped out along the way.

The nine players still in the mix from the 2016 Olympic team: Sacramento’s Harrison Barnes, Miami’s Jimmy Butler, San Antonio’s DeMar DeRozan, Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant, the Los Angeles Clippers’ Paul George, Golden State’s Draymond Green, Brooklyn’s Kyrie Irving, Toronto’s Kyle Lowry and Golden State’s Klay Thompson.

Back from the 2012 Olympic champion roster: the Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis, Durant, Houston’s James Harden, James, Cleveland’s Kevin Love, Oklahoma City’s Chris Paul and Houston’s Russell Westbrook. Back from the 2008 gold-medal squad: the Lakers’ Dwight Howard.

And those with World Cup or world championship gold medals for USA Basketball, but no Olympic gold to this point: Golden State’s Stephen Curry, Cleveland’s Andre Drummond and Denver’s Mason Plumlee.

James and Paul won Olympic gold at Beijing in 2008, and James was part of the team that won bronze at Athens in 2004. If James joins this team, he will become the second four-time men’s basketball Olympian for the U.S., joining Carmelo Anthony.

“I’m looking forward to coaching the U.S. Olympic Team, and I’m excited about the potential and possibilities this team has,” Popovich said.

The Olympics could be a return to the court for players like Durant and Thompson, who have missed the entirety of this NBA season with injuries. Durant’s recovery from Achilles tendon surgery is at the point where he’s doing some on-court work and Thompson has said he would like to play if his surgically repaired knee is up to the challenge.

The 25 other players who are finalists for this summer’s team but do not yet have Olympic or World Cup gold for the U.S.: Miami’s Bam Adebayo, San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge, Washington’s Bradley Beal, Phoenix’s Devin Booker, Indiana’s Malcolm Brogdon, Boston’s Jaylen Brown, Utah’s Mike Conley, the Clippers’ Montrezl Harrell, Brooklyn’s Joe Harris, Philadelphia’s Tobias Harris, Boston’s Gordon Hayward, New Orleans’ Brandon Ingram, the Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma, the Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard, Portland’s Damian Lillard, Milwaukee’s Brook Lopez, the Lakers’ JaVale McGee, Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton, Utah’s Donovan Mitchell, Indiana’s Victor Oladipo, Boston’s Marcus Smart and Jayson Tatum, Indiana’s Myles Turner, Boston’s Kemba Walker and San Antonio’s Derrick White.

“The reason we have this big roster is a lot of things happen, a lot of variables,” Colangelo said. “And what’s to say what’s going to happen from an injury standpoint between now and June? We don’t know. So we have the rest of the season to monitor, to watch. But when we select our 12, they will be 12 who are absolutely in with all fours.”

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