LeBron out, Carmelo in for US team at Rio Olympics

James, who led the Cavs to the greatest-ever NBA Finals comeback, cited the grind of having logged so much court time through six consecutive trips to the finals. Photograph:( Getty )

AFP New York Jun 24, 2016, 08.52 AM (IST)
LeBron James reportedly joined an NBA All-Star lineup of talent Thursday that will not play for the United States at the Rio Olympics, while Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant will try to bring the Americans a third consecutive gold medal.

A flurry of reports ahead of next week's announcement of the final US roster for Brazil was topped when Cleveland.com said James has told USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo and coach Mike Krzyzewski that he will not play in August.

"I could use the rest," James told the website.

James, who led the Cleveland Cavaliers to the greatest-ever NBA Finals comeback to dethrone the Golden State Warriors, cited the grind of having logged so much court time through six consecutive trips to the finals.

NBA Most Valuable Player and scoring leader Stephen Curry of Golden State said during the finals that he would not play in Rio.

Star guards Russell Westbrook of Oklahoma City, Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers and James Harden of Houston also have backed out of consideration, as have San Antonio forward LaMarcus Aldridge, Washington forward John Wall, Clippers forward Blake Griffin and Anthony Davis of New Orleans.

Joining that group Thursday were Portland's Damian Lillard, who wants to rehabilitate a plantar fascitis injury; Utah forward Gordon Hayward and San Antonio forward Kawhi Leonard.

The pullout brings back memories of 2004, when security worries were a concern in the Athens run-up and many top names withdrew. Those who played could only muster bronze.

The roster to be named next week by USA Basketball is expected to include Oklahoma City star Durant and New York playmaker Anthony plus Indiana's Paul George, Golden State's Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, Sacramento's DeMarcus Cousins, Chicagos Jimmy Butler, the Clippers' DeAndre Jordan, and Toronto's Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. Two other available spots could include Cleveland star guard Kyrie Irving, who played a key role alongside James in bringing the first sports title to Cleveland since 1964.

A source told the website a desire to rest his body from the title run to better prepare his bid to defend the crown was his only reason for not playing in Rio, the Zika virus not playing a role in his decision.

James, 31, sparked the US squad of NBA stars to gold medals at the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Olympics. He is the US team's all-time scoring leader with 273 points and second in total rebounds with 95.

He was also a reserve on the 2004 US team that settled for bronze at Athens and on the US team that finished third at the 2010 world championships in Japan.

"King" James is one of three men to play on three Olympic basketball teams and in 2012, he became one of the select few to win an NBA crown and Olympic gold in the same year.