Olympics a big topic at NBA media days as Kevin Durant, more stars show interest after pledges from LeBron James, Stephen Curry

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry and Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James headline a group of exciting Team USA commitments for the upcoming Paris Olympics. (Photo by Ray Chavez/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images)

Competition for Team USA’s 12 roster spots ahead of the 2024 Olympics is going to be stiff.

When NBA teams across the league gathered for media day on Monday, there was an outpouring of public commitments to the United States for the upcoming Paris games. Last month, Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James was reportedly recruiting other stars to join him on the national team — and it seems he has a 100% success rate.

The 38-year-old’s reported “strong” interest in playing for Team USA came shortly after Team USA’s uncharacteristic fourth-place finish in the FIBA World Cup. He reached out to teammate Anthony Davis, Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry, Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics and Kevin Durant of the Phoenix Suns, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania and Joe Vardon. Warriors forward Draymond Green had already communicated a desire to play, and every other aforementioned star did the same on media day.

Suns Devin Booker and Bradley Beal, Celtics forward Jaylen Brown, Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo and Clippers star Kawhi Leonard were also among the leading Americans who used Monday to publicly express their availability next summer.

Team USA’s World Cup squad this year didn’t feature any players with Olympic experience, and only three of them were NBA All-Stars. While James’ desire to play in another Olympics reportedly had nothing to do with the World Cup, his alleged recruiting efforts largely targeted players with experience at the Games.

Durant appeared in the last three Olympics and was MVP of the 2020 gold medal team. Green played in the last two Olympics. Davis won gold with Team USA in 2012, as did Tatum in 2020. Curry is the only exception, but he’s no stranger to international competition. He won World Cups with Team USA in 2010 and 2014.

The 35-year-old spoke about the opportunity to help Team USA reassert dominance on the world stage, he told reporters Monday.

“It’s the one thing I haven’t done,” he added. “Definitely want to be on the team.”

For Durant, another Olympic victory would make him the first men’s basketball player with four Olympic gold medals.

“I will play in the Olympics next year,” he said resoundingly at the Suns’ media day.

DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine of the Chicago Bulls indicated they would play if asked. Brown, Cleveland Cavaliers’ Donovan Mitchell, Milwaukee Bucks Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez, New York Knicks star Julius Randle, Denver Nuggets’ Aaron Gordon, Toronto Raptors’ Fred VanVleet, Booker and Beal all shared that sentiment. Kyrie Irving said the same at Dallas Mavericks’ media day last week.

The abundance of talent will make James’ job easier, he noted Monday when asked about the effort to add to his two Olympic gold medals.

“From the players that we have here off the top of my head that could fill that roster up, I don’t think it would be too much of a physical toll,” he said. “I wouldn’t have to do much. Rebound a little bit, pass a little bit, defend, block some shots, you know? But we’ll see. We’ll see what happens.”

In addition to media day providing unexpected insight into the potential Olympic pool, the convening of teams also gave us more detail than ever surrounding Joel Embiid. The Philadelphia 76ers’ MVP is still unsure whether he’ll play for Cameroon, France or the United States next summer.

“My goal is to play in the Olympics. I love all three options. Cameroon, I’m born there, I’m from there and I always want to represent my country. But the goal is also to play in the Olympics. If we had a chance, or if we would qualify for the Olympics, that will be an easy decision,” he said. “But that’s still up in the air [because Cameroon still has to qualify for the 12-team Paris field next July]. And I really do want to play in the Olympics.”

France issued him an Oct. 10 deadline, which could leave him with just two options.

Other stars opt to focus on season ahead

Along with Booker and Irving, De’Aaron Fox of the Sacramento Kings and new Milwaukee addition Damian Lillard reportedly had an early interest in the Olympics without being recruited by James. Lillard has yet to discuss his plans for next summer, while Fox fielded some questions Monday about the Summer Games.

Fox, who led the Kings to their first playoff appearance since 2006 last season, had to “find a nice way” to say he wasn’t thinking about Team USA during media day. Earlier Monday, the reigning Clutch Player of the Year expressed the team’s shared goal to win its first NBA title in 72 seasons. In 2019, the quick guard withdrew from consideration for the FIBA World Cup roster after being called up. He cited a desire to focus on preparing for that season.

Atlanta’s Trae Young also expressed Monday that he wants to play for Team USA, but feels he was snubbed when he didn’t make the World Cup team.

“If you don’t think I’ve been disrespected, you’re just not telling the truth,” Young told reporters at media day. “But, I mean, it’s OK. For me, I just want to keep the main thing the main thing and just win. I know when I win a championship all that’s going to take care of itself.”

The NBA season is long enough for the situations of any of the players who expressed interest in playing in the Olympics to change. There’s no guarantee who will be on the roster, but whoever lands a spot will be expected to help bring home America’s fifth consecutive gold medal.

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