Colangelo on Team USA: 'There Are No Free Tickets to London'
Maybe he can cite a nagging case of athlete's foot due to a long playoff run. Or perhaps he can claim to have a sick goldfish at home.
If the Cleveland star doesn't play because he's gone Hollywood and then wants to rejoin Team USA just in time for the London Olympics in 2012, then there's a problem. That sets a bad precedent for the multi-summer agreement USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo seeks from players.
Speaking to reporters before Wednesday's game against Milwaukee, James said he's "probably not playing'' in Turkey because he's "got a really, really, really, really, really busy summer'' that includes "a lot of things I need to take care of first."
Yes, James can become a free agent this summer, but Colangelo will take that into consideration with all players in that position. Other high-profile candidates for Turkey who might be free agents include Toronto's Chris Bosh and Miami's Dwyane Wade, who is wavering about whether he will play.
Keep in mind James didn't directly refer to the possibly of missing the World Championships to concentrate on his movie. But it has been reported James this summer will film Fantasy Basketball Camp, a comedy set in Las Vegas.
Reached Thursday by FanHouse, Colangelo said he's "not concerned about anything'' James said Wednesday.
"Nothing has changed,'' Colangelo said. "We'll find out in July who's going to play and who isn't going to play. ... When I talked to LeBron a month or two ago, he said he might play or he might not.''
Colangelo first told FanHouse last November he plans to bend over backward to accommodate players who will be free agents this summer. He will permit them to not participate in a July minicamp in Las Vegas if they are still taking care of free-agent business. But he then would expect them to be available for training camp in mid-August in New York, a time when everybody should be signed.
Colangelo wouldn't speculate on the possibility James might not want to go Turkey due to filming a movie. But he had some interesting comments when talking about players who might bow out of the less-glamorous World Championships and then want to play in the 2012 Olympics.
"There are no free tickets to London,'' said Colangelo, who announced a working 27-man roster in February with the thinking those players would commit to this year's World Championships and the 2012 Olympics, with the additional possibility players might be needed for a 2011 Olympic qualifying tournament if Team USA doesn't mine gold in Turkey. "That doesn't mean nobody could (return to the team) if they didn't participate (in Turkey). It all depends on the reason. We've taken into account players have personal lives.''
Colangelo did say a player who has a longer history with USA Basketball might be given more latitude than one with a shorter tenure. James played in the 2004 Olympics, the 2006 World Championships, the 2007 Olympic qualifying tournament and the 2008 Olympics. He finally won gold in 2008 after the 2004 and 2006 outfits both took bronze.
"I believe strongly it depends on who the player is. We take into account equity,'' Colangelo said, speaking about players who have been before with Team USA.
Still, USA Basketball has a potential problem on its hands. James is the world's top player and would be the marquee attraction in Turkey.
But the World Championships, as much as Colangelo hates to see, doesn't have the draw for Americans that the Olympics do. Never mind that many other top basketball-playing nations consider the Worlds more important.
James has every right not to play this summer. He's represented his country with pride in the past three primary international competitions.
But if James bows out for something as self-serving as making a movie, and then wants back in for 2012, that's the problem. Where does USA Basketball draw the line if some other players drop out of Turkey for shaky reasons and then want that free ticket to London?
So, if James doesn't play in Turkey and still has 2012 still on his mind, let's hope he can come up with a better excuse than the team he's joining this summer is the Screen Actor's Guild.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @christomasson