Colangelo backs off Team USA edict

Marc J. Spears

USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo has softened his stance on players who skip this summer’s world championships, saying he will allow more flexibility to NBA stars who have already spent considerable time in the national program.

LeBron James(notes) is strongly considering not playing this summer so he can attend to other business and family interests. Colangelo said last week that any Team USA member who passes on the summer’s events without a valid excuse could jeopardize their eligibility for the 2012 Olympics in London.

“There are no special rules for anyone,” Colangelo said then. “If someone decides to pass without a legit issue, they do it with an understanding of the risk.”

Those comments irritated James, who has previously played in two Olympics, a world championships and a FIBA Americas tournament. “If he came out and said that, I don’t respect that because of the commitment we’ve given to the United States with a three-year commitment off the bat,” James said. “We didn’t second guess it at all.”

Without mentioning James specifically, Colangelo said Saturday that he will consider each player on an individual basis and give special consideration to players who have built “equity” with USA Basketball.

“I appreciate the time and commitment players have given to USA Basketball,” Colangelo said by phone. “That’s a sacrifice. I’ve spoken often about equity. We’ll have equity in our program. If a player is not able to perform, that equity does count. Each situation will be looked at on a case-by-case basis.”

USA Basketball currently has 27 players in its men’s program, including previous Olympians like James, Dwyane Wade(notes), Kobe Bryant(notes), Carmelo Anthony(notes) and Dwight Howard(notes). Bryant recently said he expects to play depending on his health, while Wade has gone back and forth on his intentions. Colangelo said Detroit Pistons forward Tayshaun Prince(notes) and Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo(notes) have accepted offers to join USA Basketball, but their agents have yet to send back signed contracts.

Colangelo said he plans to email each of the players in the program to provide an update about this summer’s plans. USA Basketball will also likely invite some younger NBA players to participate in a summer minicamp in Las Vegas, possibly including J.J. Hickson(notes), Tyreke Evans(notes) and Stephen Curry(notes).

“The season is winding down,” Colangelo said. “The playoffs are about to begin and a number of players have significant roles on teams. They’ve had terrific years. I’m happy for them. Since minicamp doesn’t arrive until July, a lot could happen beforehand with injuries and free agency. The good thing is we have a deep roster and I’m confident we’ll have a deep squad before the world championships.”

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