LeBron, Durant, Paul among 57 NBA players in US Olympic squad

New York (AFP) –


Two-time Olympic champions LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Chris Paul were among 57 NBA players named on Thursday by USA Basketball as finalists for the Tokyo Olympic men's basketball squad.

The list added 15 players to a group of 42 finalists named in February 2020 who have confirmed interest in trying to bring the Americans a fourth consecutive gold medal and 16th overall next August in Japan.

A final 12-man Olympic roster will be announced later this year.

James, who helped the Los Angeles Lakers win last year's NBA crown, and Paul, with the Phoenix Suns, helped spark the USA to Olympic gold in 2008 at Beijing and 2012 in London.

James, who was also on the US 2004 bronze medal squad, could match Carmelo Anthony as the only four-time US men's basketball Olympians.

Durant was on the championship squads in London and in 2016 at Rio and is among an NBA-high six players from the Brooklyn Nets on the prospective lineup, joined by three-time NBA scoring champion James Harden, playmaking guard Kyrie Irving, Blake Griffin, Joe Harris and center DeAndre Jordan.

Zion Williamson of the New Orleans Pelicans plus Brooklyn's Griffin and Jordan were among the 15 newcomers to the finalist list.

Others included Cleveland's Jarrett Allen, Houston's John Wall, Eric Gordon and Christian Wood, Detroit's Jerami Grant, Milwaukee's Jrue Holiday, New York's Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson, Miami's Duncan Robinson, Chicago's Zach LaVine, Fred VanVleet of Toronto and Atlanta's Trae Young.

"With the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics from 2020 to 2021, it's important we continue to remain flexible and consider all players who can contribute to our efforts to field the best USA team possible," USA Basketball's national team managing director Jerry Colangelo said. "These additions we're announcing will help ensure we're doing that."

Covid-19 added more complications to the Olympic quest for gold than just postponing the Tokyo Olympics for a year. The NBA finished last season's finals in October, leaving barely two months off before the 2020-21 campaign tipped off.

This year's NBA Finals would finish on the eve of the Olympic Opening Ceremony if they went the full seven games, which has forced USA Basketball to look at a larger pool of talent given it will assemble a squad while the playoffs are ongoing.

"Having a larger player pool than what we normally have is critical because of all of the uncertainties we face about availability," Colangelo said.

"But for USA Basketball to receive the commitment of so many outstanding players remains an indicator of the great honor of representing your country means to these men."

San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is set to coach the US Olympic squad with Golden State coach Steve Kerr and former Atlanta coach Lloyd Pierce among his assistants.

- Nine hopefuls from Rio -

Nine players from the unbeaten 2016 US gold run in Rio are candidates for Tokyo, including Durant, Irving, Jordan, Sacramento's Harrison Barnes, Miami's Jimmy Butler, San Antonio's DeMar DeRozan, Toronto's Kyle Lowry, Golden State's Draymond Green and Paul George of the Los Angeles Clippers.

Anthony Davis, a Lakers' teammate of James, plus Cleveland's Kevin Love and Washington's Russell Westbrook were on the 2012 US Olympic champions while Philadelphia's Dwight Howard was on the 2008 gold medal team among this year's finalists.

Golden State star guard Stephen Curry, NBA scoring leader Bradley Beal of Washington, Utah's Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell, Boston's Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, Portland's Damian Lillard and Kawhi Leonard of the Los Angeles Clippers are also among the finalists.

Others include Bam Adebayo (Miami), LaMarcus Aldridge (San Antonio), Devin Booker (Phoenix), Malcolm Brogdon (Indiana), Andre Drummond (Cleveland), Montrezl Harrell (Los Angeles Lakers), Tobias Harris (Philadelphia), Gordon Hayward (Charlotte), Brandon Ingram (New Orleans), Kyle Kuzma (Los Angeles Lakers), Brook Lopez (Milwaukee), JaVale McGee (Cleveland), Khris Middleton (Milwaukee), Victor Oladipo (Houston), Mason Plumlee (Detroit), Myles Turner (Indiana), Kemba Walker (Boston) and Derrick White (San Antonio).