Colangelo Optimistic LeBron Will Play for Team USA in Turkey
Colangelo, chairman of USA Basketball, met with James on Dec. 21 when his Cleveland Cavaliers played at Phoenix. Colangelo was asked in a phone interview Friday with FanHouse whether James told him he wants to play in Turkey.
"Yes,'' Colangelo said.
Colangelo said James has "always been pretty consistent in his commitment to me about'' wanting to play. Asked if he's optimistic James will play, Colangelo said, "That is right.''
Colangelo said the only drawback James has expressed is he could be a free agent next season if he opts out of his contract. There have been reports James is making a movie next summer and that could limit his time, but Colangelo said James hasn't said anything to him about that and Colangelo said that's something he wouldn't ask about.
"I don't know,'' James told FanHouse after Friday's 99-97 loss at Denver about his prospects of playing in Turkey. "We'll see. I might miss it too. I got a lot going on this summer. You know what I got going on this summer. I got to take care of business first so we'll see.''
As for James' free agency, Colangelo doesn't see that as a major problem. Team USA will hold a minicamp July 22-25 in Las Vegas, and any players who have not signed NBA deals by then won't be required to compete. Others in that category could include fellow 2008 Olympic stars Dwayne Wade of Miami and Chris Bosh of Toronto, who also can opt out of contracts. However, Colangelo said "it's not too much to ask for'' those possible free agents to show up in Las Vegas -- even if they don't play -- to attend meetings and observe workouts.
Colangelo said training camp for Team USA will start Aug. 10 in Las Vegas in preparation for the World Championships, which run Aug. 28-Sept. 12. He would expect all players to have completed their free-agency business by then and be able to practice.
So Aug. 10 is the drop-dead date for playing for Team USA. Even when told that would seem like plenty of time for James to take care of his business, James said, "We'll see.''
"We've got a little bit of a hiccup with free agency,'' said Colangelo, who has been speaking to agents and NBA personnel in recent weeks to gauge the landscape, but anticipates there will enough time for Team USA players to sign deals after the free agency period starts July 1.
Colangelo said he will meet with Wade on Friday night in Phoenix when the Heat faces the Suns. Colangelo said he will meet with Bosh in Toronto on Jan. 27. James, Wade and Bosh are the only top players from the 2008 Olympics whose status has been in doubt.
Colangelo originally had hoped to have a list of 25 finalists for the World Championships by the end of 2009 but that has been changed. Colangelo said USA Basketball now expects to announce the 25 names at a press gathering during the Feb. 12-14 All-Star Weekend in Dallas.
"I just think that would be a very appropriate time to do it that weekend with media there from all around the world,'' said Colangelo, seeing it as good publicity for the World Championships, a basketball event that doesn't get nearly as much attention in the United States compared to the Olympics.
Of the 12 holdovers from the 2008 U.S. Olympic team, which won gold in Beijing, Colangelo said only Dallas' Jason Kidd, who has retired from international competition, won't have his name on the list of 25. That is, unless another holdover bows out, but Colangelo hasn't heard about anybody other than Kidd not wanting to play.
Of the 25, Colangelo said the list will be pared to 15 to 18 by the July minicamp. The roster must be down to 12 for the World Championships.
Colangelo has said Utah's Carlos Boozer, Milwaukee's Michael Redd and Detroit's Tayshaun Prince, who played limited minutes in Beijing, will have competition for roster spots. Boozer first told FanHouse he is firmly committed to playing despite being a free agent next summer.
Colangelo expects soon to talk with all three to see where they are at. Colangelo is unsure of the status of Prince, who missed nearly two months due to a small rupture of a disc in his lower back before recently returning.
"Tayshaun has never really been hurt, and now he's struggling with injuries,'' Colangelo said. "I would have to see what his state of mind is.''
Colangelo reiterated Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant will be one of the 12 players heading to Turkey. Colangelo told FanHouse last September that "Kevin Durant is going to replace somebody'' on the roster from the Olympics.
Among others who weren't on the Olympic team, Colangelo also singled out Portland's Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge, who both have told FanHouse about their desire to play in Turkey. However, Roy, who didn't participate in a Las Vegas camp for young players last summer primarily due to his contract situation, has historically sent mixed signals to USA Basketball, and Colangelo soon would want a firm commitment from him.
"We need to be clear on some things by next week,'' said Colangelo, planning to talk with Roy's camp.
Before heading overseas, Colangelo said the team will play an exhibition game in Las Vegas and one likely in New York. He said the team likely will go to three of the following five sites for exhibitions in Europe: London, Paris, Spain, Greece and Italy. Possible foes at any locations haven't been determined.
For the World Championships, USA has been put in Group C along with Croatia, Brazil, Tunisia, Slovenia and Iran. Colangelo called it a fair draw, and he likes how the Americans will play all their games in Istanbul.
Brazil figures to be the toughest foe in the group but it remains to be seen if all the country's top players will compete. At last Cavaliers forward Anderson Varejao is in line to play for Brazil.
"Unless I'm hurt, I'm going to play,'' Varejao said in an interview Friday with FanHouse. "Myself, I'm going to play.''
Varejao said top international player Tiago Splitter "is going to go for sure'' to Turkey and he's hopeful Phoenix guard Leandro Barbosa will play. However, Denver center Nene Hilario remains a question mark.
Nene recently said he didn't want to discuss possibilities of playing with Brazil during the Nuggets' season. Varejao might soon talk to Nene to gauge his interest.
"I'm probably going to ask him if he's going to play or not,'' Varejao said. "But I can't convince him. He has to if he wants to go, if he's healthy and everything is going well. ... If we got everybody and we get there and we play together, I believe we can do really good (in Turkey).''
So one Cavalier is committed for the World Championships in Varejao. And Colangelo is feeling pretty good about James joining him in Turkey.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @christomasson