BOSTON -- After LeBron James and Dwayne Wade both strongly hinted in the past week that they're considering skipping the World Championships in Turkey this summer, USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo responded with a warning: Such a decision could jeopardize their spots on the 2012 Olympic team.
LeBron lobbed his own response back to Colangelo on Sunday: He doesn't think that's fair.
The war of words is on.
"I think everyone in the U.S.A. knows what type of commitment these guys have made, including myself, since 2003," James said before the Cavaliers played the Celtics. "I'm not trying to bash Jerry or anything like that, because he's a good guy and I respect him. I don't respect that because of the commitment we've all given to the U.S.A. Right off the bat, we didn't second guess it at all. If we're jeopardizing being in London, what can we do?"
In recruiting members of the 2008 Olympic gold medal team to return for the 2012 Olympics in London, Colangelo has consistently presented to them his desire for a two-year commitment: Win the 2010 worlds in Turkey to earn an automatic Olympic berth, and they get the summer of 2011 off.
But the summer of 2010 is more complicated for James, Wade, Chris Bosh and other 2008 Olympians who will have a chance to be unrestricted free agents on July 1. James also has plans to participate in the filming of a movie; the combination of on-court and off-court responsibilities would seem to make it difficult at best for him to travel to Turkey.
Last week, Colangelo told Yahoo! Sports, "There are no free passes to London." He has since backtracked somewhat, acknowledging that he doesn't expect free agents to practice with Team USA until their situations are resolved. It would be almost inconceivable for Colangelo to punish James for skipping the worlds by leaving him off the Olympic team for London. But in the meantime, he has to maintain the appearance of consistency; if James and Wade bow out, others could follow.
"If that is the case, we'll have to see when it happens," James said. "There's a lot that goes on with being a professional athlete other than just basketball."