2024 Olympics

LeBron: Hopeful To Stay With Lakers, Unsure On Retirement

LeBron James is hopeful to remain with the Lakers as his career winds down but he’s not sure how many more years he wants to play, he told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin and other media members during a press conference prior to the All-Star Game.

Speculation about James’ future has ramped up since it became public that the Warriors had inquired about James’ availability prior to the trade deadline. Talks didn’t get serious, as the Lakers had no interest in trading James.

James holds a $51.4MM option on his contract for next season. While stating that his preference is to remain in the organization, he didn’t tip his hand whether he’ll exercise the option.

“I am a Laker and I’m happy and been very happy being Laker the last six years and hopefully it stays that way,” James said. “But I don’t have the answer to how long it is or which uniform I’ll be in. Hopefully it is with the Lakers. It’s a great organization, so many greats. But we’ll see.”

James was similarly vague on how many more seasons he’ll suit up. It’s been reported in recent years he’d like to play with son Bronny James, currently a freshman at USC.

LeBron is also unsure whether he wants to have a farewell tour in his final year or just go quietly.

“I was asked this question a couple days ago,” James said. “‘Will you kind of take the farewell tour, or will you kind of just Tim Duncan it?’ I’m 50-50, I’m going to be honest, because there’s times when I feel like I guess I owe it to my fans that have been along this journey with me for two decades plus, to be able to give them that moment where it’s every city and whatever the case may be and they give you your flowers or whatever the case may be. That seems cool. But the other side of that, I’ve never been that great with accepting like praise. It’s a weird feeling for me.”

James claimed during a TNT interview prior to the game that he was unaware of the Warriors’ interest in him.

“I actually heard about it when everybody else heard about it,” James said. “Sometimes there’s conversations that happen behind closed doors that you don’t even know about it. And I guess until it’s real or not, then they’ll bring it to you. But it never even got to me.”

In the short run, James wants to maximize the remainder of the season. He arrived in Indianapolis on Sunday, rather than on Saturday like the other All-Stars, because he was seeking treatment on his left ankle. James missed the Lakers’ last game before the break on Wednesday. He’ll receive more treatment before L.A.’s next game on Thursday  against Golden State.

“Trying to get my ankle as strong and as back to where I feel confident that I can finish off this last third of the season,” James said. “I won’t be playing the entire game (Sunday), for sure. I can get out there and run around with the young guys for a little bit and then shut it down at some point to give my body, and my ankle more importantly, another opportunity to rest.”

Following the NBA season, James intends to play for Team USA at the Paris Olympics this summer.

“I told myself before the season when I committed to being a part of the Olympic team, obviously it was all predicated on my health,” he said. “As it stands right now, I am healthy enough to be on the team and perform at a level that I knew I could perform at.”

And-Ones: Olympic Qualifiers, Rubio, R. Miller, All-Star Weekend

FIBA has officially announced the schedule for this summer’s Olympic qualifying tournaments, which will determine the final four men’s basketball teams who will compete for gold in Paris. Each of the four tournaments will tip off on July 2, with the finals taking place on July 7.

The four qualifying tournaments are being played in Spain, Puerto Rico, Latvia, and Greece, with 24 teams vying to advance to the 2024 Olympics. The results of those tournaments will determine whether we get the opportunity to see a handful of notable NBA stars – such as Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greece) and Luka Doncic (Slovenia) – playing in Paris.

A total of 12 men’s basketball teams will compete at the Olympics and eight of those spots have already been claimed. Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Serbia, South Sudan, and the U.S. have punched their tickets to Paris. Details on the other 24 teams competing in the qualifying tournaments – and how they’ve been split up – can be found right here.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Ricky Rubio may make his season debut with Barcelona on March 1 when the team faces AS Monaco in EuroLeague play, as Kevin Martorano of Sportando relays. Rubio announced his retirement from the NBA in January, but remains on track to make a comeback in his home country, having signed with Barcelona earlier this month. Teammate Alex Abrines mentioned March 1 as a possible target date for the veteran point guard.
  • TNT Sports and analyst Reggie Miller have reached an agreement on a multiyear contract extension, according to a press release from the company. Miller is in his 19th season with TNT Sports and will continue to be part of NBA broadcasts for the network for the foreseeable future.
  • A current Pacer and a former Pacer earned honors at the secondary events at All-Star weekend in Indianapolis. Pacers guard Bennedict Mathurin was named the Rising Stars MVP on Friday while Magic two-way guard Trevelin Queen earned MVP honors in Sunday’s G League Up Next game (Twitter links via the NBA). Queen spent most of the 2022/23 season on a two-way contract with Indiana.

And-Ones: 2024 Olympics, NBPA Leadership, G. Hill, Driesell

Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton and Lakers center Anthony Davis are willing to be part of the U.S. Olympic team in Paris if they receive invitations, writes Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. Reynolds talked to both players at today’s All-Star media event, and they’re excited about participating.

“My goal is to play for USA until the wheels fall off,” Haliburton said. “If I get that call to go, I’ll be there.”

Haliburton was one of the top players for Team USA at last summer’s FIBA World Cup, leading the team with 5.6 assists and 1.5 steals per game across eight contests. He also played for the U.S. in the Under-19 World Cup in 2019.

Davis won gold medals in the 2012 Olympics and the 2014 World Cup.

There’s more news from around the basketball world:

  • Harrison Barnes and Garrett Temple have been reelected to their positions as secretary-treasurer and vice president of the National Basketball Players Association, the union announced in a press release. Their new terms will last for three years. “I’m thrilled to have Harrison and Garrett return as members of the NBPA Executive Committee,” NBPA president CJ McCollum said. “Harrison and Garrett have a wealth of knowledge and insight on our players’ experiences, and their leadership has been an invaluable resource during critical periods in our union’s history. I am excited to continue working with them in their respective roles to shape the direction of the NBPA and better serve the collective group of players.”
  • George Hill talks to Marc J. Spears of Andscape about finding peace at his Texas ranch as he waits for another NBA opportunity. Hill, who spent time with the Bucks and Pacers last season, is away from the NBA for the first time after a 15-year career. “I just had a baby boy, so it’s good being here,” he said. “But at the same time, you miss basketball and going to camp every year. So, to not finally do it this year, it’s a big crack on the head. But I’m going to just keep control of what I can control. Stay positive and have fun. You know this journey. There are opportunities to get back there. If it doesn’t, I’m OK with myself. I never beat myself up. … I don’t think I’m ever going to stop working out. I hope to get back in, God willing. And I’ll be ready when opportunity comes for sure.”
  • Long-time Maryland basketball coach Charles “Lefty” Driesell died this morning at age 92, the university announced. He ranks 15th among NCAA Division I coaches with 786 career victories and was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2018. Our deepest condolences go out to Driesell’s family and friends.

New York Notes: DiVincenzo, Knicks’ Roster, Johnson, Bridges

Knicks swingman Donte DiVincenzo would like to represent Italy in this year’s Summer Olympics but it apparently won’t happen.

“Ideally, I would love to,” DiVincenzo told Stefan Bondy of the New York Post. “Logistically and how everything plays out, I don’t know if it’s possible. But if everything works out perfectly, I would love to.”

However, in a follow-up story, Bondy said he received an email from a representative from the Italian Basketball Federation stating that DiVincenzo couldn’t be added to the team.

“For the next Olympic Games there would not be the time to complete the procedures to provide him with an Italian passport,” Francesco D’Aniello wrote.

We have more on the New York teams:

  • The Knicks only have 13 players on standard contracts and need to add at least one more. According to Ian Begley of SNY TV, signing one – or more — of their G League players to a standard contract is a possibility. Charlie Brown Jr., Jacob Toppin and Duane Washington are currently on two-way deals and may be candidates for a promotion, while Taj Gibson, who is currently on a 10-day deal, could receive a rest-of-the-season contract, Begley adds.
  • Nets forward Cameron Johnson returned to action on Wednesday after missing four games with a left adductor strain. He came off the bench and played 18 minutes, contributed four points, three rebounds and two assists. Johnson started in all 40 of his previous appearances but Dorian Finney-Smith got the starting nod with Johnson on a minutes restriction. Coach Jacque Vaughn will have to choose between the two of them going forward, unless he wants to put Cam Thomas in a sixth man role again, according to Brian Lewis of the New York Post,
  • The Nets’ last game before the All-Star break was a disaster, as they lost by 50 to the first-place Celtics. Forward Mikal Bridges told Lewis that the team shouldn’t forget about the loss. “Yeah, I mean you gotta learn and fix the issue; that’s pretty much what it is. You can’t just let this one go and think like, ‘Oh, like, let it drop.’ No,” he said. “Yeah, maybe if you lost towards the end, but you got beat by 50. It’s not just, ‘Let it go.’ A lot of (bleep) is not right, and you’ve got to fix it.”

Pacific Notes: Beal, Green, Milojevic, Vezenkov

Bradley Beal lost a chance to play in the last Olympics after being placed in COVID protocols, and it doesn’t appear he’ll be part of this year’s event either, writes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. The Suns star wasn’t included on the 41-player pool list that was released Tuesday.

“It’s a difficult exercise because we have so many talented players and so many guys who one could make an argument for being on the list,” USA Basketball managing director Grant Hill said during a media conference call. “I had some great conversations with Brad last summer. That was tough. Tough decisions to get it to 41. I’ll be honest. I didn’t think we would be at 41. I thought we would have fewer names. I thought maybe 30 and it was really hard to get to 41 and I imagine it will be very difficult to get to 12.”

Beal remains a productive scorer, averaging 18.0 PPG in his first season with Phoenix, but injuries likely factored into the decision to keep him off the pool list. Beal has been limited to 50 and 40 games the past two seasons, and he has only appeared in 20 of the Suns’ first 44 games.

“I’ll say this with history as sort of a guide here,” Hill added. “A lot can, and will, happen between now and July and we’ve added players to that list. We’ve been fluid at times. We’ll continue to monitor, we’ll continue to evaluate and we’ll see where we are when we get on that plane and head overseas.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Warriors forward Draymond Green was also noticeably absent from the pool list, and Hill indicated that his two suspensions this season played a role in the decision, per Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. “His contributions have been significant, and he is a real part of the legacy of this organization for his excellence,” Hill said of Green, a two-time gold medal winner. “But in lieu of what’s transpired this year, we made a decision to not have him on this list.” 
  • The Warriors will wear a “DM” patch for the rest of the season to honor assistant coach Dejan Milojevic, who died suddenly last week, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. The team paid tribute to Milojevic with a ceremony before tonight’s game (video link from Kendra Andrews of ESPN).
  • Kings forward Sasha Vezenkov will be reevaluated in seven to 14 days after suffering a moderate right ankle sprain Monday night, according to Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. Vezenkov was dealing with a sprained left ankle going into the game, Anderson adds.

Bulls Notes: DeRozan, Lowry, Caruso, White

DeMar DeRozan typically doesn’t get involved in the Bulls‘ front office decisions, but he might change that stance if it means bringing long-time friend Kyle Lowry to Chicago, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.

Lowry, who was DeRozan’s teammate for many years in Toronto, was traded from Miami to Charlotte on Tuesday and could be on the move again before the February 8 deadline. It’s unlikely that the Bulls would deal for Lowry’s $29.7MM contract, but they have an open roster spot and DeRozan is willing to help facilitate a signing if Lowry reaches a buyout agreement with the Hornets.

“If it was asked of me, whether from him if that was something he wanted to do (or management), for sure. Why not?” DeRozan said. “That’s one of my closest friends, one of the smartest players I’ve played with since I been in the league.”

DeRozan revealed that Lowry called and informed him of the impending trade before the news broke Tuesday morning. DeRozan offered support to the 37-year-old guard, who is facing an uncertain basketball future for the first time in many years.

“For me, it flips to being there for him more so as a friend. Basketball kind of goes out the window,” DeRozan said. “Even last night, I just texted him before I went to sleep and asked him how he was feeling mentally. That’s all I care about first.”

There’s more from Chicago:

  • While several Eastern Conference rivals have already made significant moves, the Bulls’ trade outlook continues to be quiet, Johnson adds. No market has developed for Zach LaVine, who is currently sidelined with a sprained ankle, and the front office hasn’t shown any inclination to trade Alex Caruso despite interest around the league, according to Johnson.
  • Caruso was honored to be included in the 41-player pool for the 2024 Olympics that was released Tuesday, tweets Julia Poe of The Chicago Tribune. “Hopefully I’m lucky enough to get selected and go,” Caruso said. “That would be an even bigger accomplishment and exciting adventure.”
  • In a full story for The Chicago Tribune, Poe looks at whether Coby White should be given a larger role in the Bulls’ clutch possessions considering his improvement this season. Even when White is having a huge scoring night, DeRozan is typically the focus of the crunch-time offense.

Team USA Announces 41-Player Pool For 2024 Olympics

USA Basketball has officially announced a pool of 41 players who are in the mix for the 12 spots on the 2024 Olympic men’s basketball team.

While the pool is subject to change, Team USA’s 12-man roster for the 2024 Paris Olympics will, in all likelihood, be made up of players from this group.

The list figures to shrink as the summer nears due to players suffering injuries or opting not to participate for other reasons, but at some point prior to the July event the U.S. decision-makers will have to choose a final roster from the remaining candidates.

Here’s the full list of 41 players, 28 of whom have represented Team USA in a previous World Cup or Olympics:

  1. Bam Adebayo (Heat)
  2. Jarrett Allen (Cavaliers)
  3. Paolo Banchero (Magic)
  4. Desmond Bane (Grizzlies)
  5. Scottie Barnes (Raptors)
  6. Devin Booker (Suns)
  7. Mikal Bridges (Nets)
  8. Jaylen Brown (Celtics)
  9. Jalen Brunson (Knicks)
  10. Jimmy Butler (Heat)
  11. Alex Caruso (Bulls)
  12. Stephen Curry (Warriors)
  13. Anthony Davis (Lakers)
  14. Kevin Durant (Suns)
  15. Anthony Edwards (Timberwolves)
  16. Joel Embiid (Sixers)
  17. De’Aaron Fox (Kings)
  18. Paul George (Clippers)
  19. Aaron Gordon (Nuggets)
  20. Tyrese Haliburton (Pacers)
  21. James Harden (Clippers)
  22. Josh Hart (Knicks)
  23. Tyler Herro (Heat)
  24. Jrue Holiday (Celtics)
  25. Chet Holmgren (Thunder)
  26. Brandon Ingram (Pelicans)
  27. Kyrie Irving (Mavericks)
  28. Jaren Jackson Jr. (Grizzlies)
  29. LeBron James (Lakers)
  30. Cameron Johnson (Nets)
  31. Walker Kessler (Jazz)
  32. Kawhi Leonard (Clippers)
  33. Damian Lillard (Bucks)
  34. Donovan Mitchell (Cavaliers)
  35. Chris Paul (Warriors)
  36. Bobby Portis (Bucks)
  37. Austin Reaves (Lakers)
  38. Duncan Robinson (Heat)
  39. Jayson Tatum (Celtics)
  40. Derrick White (Celtics)
  41. Trae Young (Hawks)

Adebayo, Booker, Durant, Holiday, Lillard, and Tatum were part of the Olympic team that won gold in Tokyo in 2021. Jerami Grant, Draymond Green, Keldon Johnson, Zach LaVine, JaVale McGee, and Khris Middleton were also on that roster, but aren’t part of the preliminary pool this time around. It’s possible some of them turned down invitations.

“The United States boasts unbelievable basketball talent and I am thrilled that many of the game’s superstars have expressed interest in representing our country at the 2024 Olympic Summer Games,” national team managing director Grant Hill said in a statement. “It is a privilege to select the team that will help us toward the goal of once again standing atop the Olympic podium. This challenging process will unfold over the next several months as we eagerly anticipate the start of national team activity.”

USA Basketball also announced today that Team USA will face Team Canada in Las Vegas on July 10 in an exhibition game. It sounds like that contest will take place during the NBA’s 2024 Summer League.

And-Ones: Yabusele, All-Stars, Shannon, Awards

Former NBA first-round pick Guerschon Yabusele, currently a member of Real Madrid, likely won’t be looking to return stateside anytime in the near future, he said in an interview with French outlet L’Equipe.

“I would like to return to the NBA, but I play for the best team in Europe and win championships,” Yabusele said (hat tip to Eurohoops). “Why would I leave that to sit on a bench? I will join the French National Team after the end of the season this summer, so I am waiting for the Olympics, not the NBA.”

The 16th overall pick in the 2016 draft, Yabusele joined the Celtics in 2017 and spent two seasons in Boston, appearing in 74 total games and seeing limited action. He averaged 2.3 points and 1.4 rebounds in 6.6 minutes per contest.

The 6’8″ forward, who is now 28, has had more success since returning to Europe in 2020. Yabusele won a French League (LNB Pro A) title with ASVEL in 2021, a Spanish League (Liga ACB) title with Real Madrid in 2022, and a EuroLeague championship in 2023 while playing a key role for his teams.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Zach Harper of The Athletic previews what this year’s All-Star rosters might look like and considers which players could be left on the outside looking in. The Western Conference backcourt will be especially competitive, according to Harper, who suggests that star guards like Devin Booker and De’Aaron Fox aren’t locks to be All-Stars.
  • A federal judge reinstated Illinois wing Terrence Shannon Jr. on Friday, ending his suspension and ruling that the university had violated his civil rights by depriving him of “protected property interests” without due process, according to John O’Connor of The Associated Press. Shannon, who had been considered a probable first-round pick in the 2024 draft, was suspended indefinitely by Illinois after being accused of rape last month.
  • Dan Devine of The Ringer picks his award winners for the first half of the 2023/24 season, including narrowly choosing Sixers star Joel Embiid over Nuggets star Nikola Jokic as the MVP so far.
  • John Hollinger of The Athletic poses a few questions for the Pacers and Raptors in the wake of their Pascal Siakam blockbuster, including what Siakam’s next contract will look like and whether Toronto will look to tank in the second half in an effort to hang onto its top-six protected first-round pick for 2024.

Northwest Notes: THT, Sexton, Murray, Camara, Sharpe

After an up-and-down start to the season that saw them primarily coming off the bench, Jazz guards Talen Horton-Tucker and Collin Sexton have been inserted into the starting lineup with Keyonte George and Jordan Clarkson injured and are playing their best basketball of the season, writes Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune.

Horton-Tucker has averaged 20.3 points and 6.5 assists in his past four games (three starts), with a shooting line of .484/.389/.824. Sexton, meanwhile, has put up 25.6 PPG and 4.0 APG in his past five, with a scorching-hot shooting line of .506/.406/.900.

The results when the two guards have shared the court have also been more encouraging as of late. In Utah’s first 23 games of the season, the team had a -6.3 net rating in the 267 minutes that Horton-Tucker and Sexton played together. In the past five games, the duo has spent 91 minutes on the court together and the team has a +10.8 net rating in that time.

“I get a kick out of the dynamic between the two,” head coach Will Hardy said, per Larsen. “I mean, they argue like brothers when they’re on the bench. It’s really funny. I come back to the timeouts frequently and hear them going back and forth in a spirited, healthy way about whatever’s going on on the court.”

“It’s actually kind of funny, because everybody, like, my family and my teammates, they’re always thinking me and Collin are arguing. We’re never arguing,” Horton-Tucker clarified. “We’re both trying to help each other. If I see something that he did wrong, he sees something that I could help him with, he’s always going to come tell me. Collin’s whole makeup is, like, intense. You never know if he’s yelling or just having a regular conversation with you.”

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • With Jamal Murray back in his home country of Canada on Wednesday night to face the Raptors, Eric Koreen of The Athletic takes a look at how the Nuggets guard has established himself as a star without ever earning an All-Star berth, while Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca notes (via Twitter) that Murray reiterated his desire to play for the Canadian national team at the 2024 Olympics in Paris.
  • An overlooked part of the three-team blockbuster that sent Damian Lillard to Milwaukee, Trail Blazers rookie Toumani Camara has emerged as a regular starter and a reliable defender for his new team, according to Jason Quick of The Athletic, who says that Camara’s inclusion in that deal was one of the final sticking points between Portland and Phoenix. The fact that Camara is thriving in Portland is all the more improbable given that he and head coach Chauncey Billups agree that his pre-draft workout with the Blazers wasn’t great.“He didn’t look very good. He really didn’t. … He didn’t stand out,” Billups said. “… I can remember watching summer league, one of the first games, and … the kid is good! He’s really good. Active. Tough as heck. I didn’t really see that in the workout, which is why I always say you can’t put too much into a workout. You have to actually see a guy play (five-on-five).”
  • Trail Blazers guard Shaedon Sharpe, who missed the second half of Tuesday’s game due to a hip issue, has been ruled out for Thursday’s game vs. Washington due to right adductor soreness, according to the team (Twitter link). It’s unclear whether Sharpe will miss additional time beyond tonight’s contest.

Nuggets Notes: Jokic, Officiating, Second Unit, KCP

While Bozidar Maljkovic — the president of Serbia’s Olympic committee — previously stated that Nuggets star Nikola Jokic would represent his home country at the 2024 Olympics in Paris, the reigning Finals MVP recently said he hasn’t decided yet if he’ll participate, as BasketNews.com relays.

It’s far. Some people put words in my mouth that I said something that I didn’t. The head coach is the first to know [my commitment]. I always talk to the family and the team after the season,” Jokic told Aleksandar Zigic of RTS.

After Denver’s lengthy playoff run ended in its first championship, Jokic decided to sit out the World Cup over the summer. Despite missing the best player on the team, the Serbians took home the silver medal behind strong performances from Bogdan Bogdanovic and other teammates.

Here are a few more notes on the defending champions:

  • Jokic has been ejected from two games over the past month for arguing with officials about foul non-calls. The second incident occurred on Tuesday in Chicago, with Jokic immediately kicked out despite not having any technical fouls leading up to that point. When asked about how Jokic is officiated, head coach Michael Malone said he’s discussed it with the NBA, according to Ryan Blackburn of Mile High Sports (Twitter link). I’ve been contacting the league and having conversations about certain plays, certain games where we don’t think he’s getting the whistle he deserves,” Malone said as a part of a larger quote.
  • The team’s bench is trending in a positive direction after some up-and-down play to open 2023/24, writes Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports. Second-year players Christian Braun and Peyton Watson, plus rookie Julian Strawther, “have become the backbone” of Denver’s second unit, according to Wind, who takes a closer look at the play of Braun and Watson in particular.
  • Starting shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope sat out Thursday’s victory over Brooklyn after being placed in the NBA’s concussion protocol and will be sidelined for Saturday’s contest against Oklahoma City as well, per Vinny Benedetto of The Denver Gazette (Twitter links). Caldwell-Pope is shooting 40.4% from three-point range and is frequently tasked with defending the opponent’s top perimeter scorer. He’s making $14.7MM this season and holds a $15.4MM player option for ’24/25.