The Associated Press
AKRON — LeBron James will wear the red, white and blue this summer after all.
Cleveland’s All-Star forward ended uncertainty about his status with the U.S. national team on Tuesday night by saying he will play in next month’s FIBA America’s Tournament, where the Americans will try to qualify for the 2008 Olympics.
“I’m going to play,” James told The Associated Press. “I’ve had enough time off, and knowing my body more than anybody, I’m ready to play. I don’t know how much I’m going to play or how extensively, but I’ll be ready.”
For several months, James had said he was “50-50” about playing for Team USA this summer. He and his girlfriend recently had their second son, and with the Cavaliers making it to the NBA Finals, James may have wanted some extra time off after playing more than 100 games since last October.
However, the 22-year-old, who played on the U.S. Olympic team at the 2004 Athens Games and for the U.S. squad that won a bronze medal at last summer’s world championships, intends to honor his three-year commitment with USA Basketball.
“It was a long and tough year,” James said. “But for me, if I make a commitment, I want to keep it. I’m a loyal guy. I committed to three years and I’m going to hold up my end of the bargain.”
James’ decision was welcome news for U.S. Olympic coach Mike Krzyzewski, who toasted James before a kickoff dinner preceding a three-day summit involving James’ corporate business partners.
“I know people don’t realize the commitment that these guys are making,” the Duke University coach said. “Literally, with the playoffs, you play well over 100 games in a season, so they give up a lot and when they give up parts of three summers, I ultimately respect their commitment. It’s a big-time thing and I need to run things in a way that’s respectful of that commitment.”
The U.S. team will have a three-day minicamp from July 20-22 in Las Vegas. Three weeks later, the Americans will resume practice in preparation for the 10-team tournament that begins Aug. 22.
Two teams from that tournament will qualify for the Beijing Games.
So far, USA Basketball has commitments from Kobe Bryant, Jason Kidd, Carlos Boozer, Chauncey Billups, Deron Williams, Mike Miller, Tayshaun Prince, Tyson Chandler, Amare Stoudemire, Michael Redd, Greg Oden and Kevin Durant.
Miami’s Dwyane Wade will not play in the summer tournaments following shoulder surgery, but the Heat star told Krzyzewski on Monday that he will report to the minicamp and wants to help out during practices in August.
“Dwyane called me and said, ‘Coach I’m one of the captains, and it means a lot,”‘ Krzyzewski said. “That’s a heck of a thing.”
James’ waffling a few months back was met with a stern response from Team USA managing director Jerry Colangelo, who said James could be jeopardizing his status as a core member of the team for Beijing.