LeBron James might make another run at Olympic gold with Gregg Popovich.
James, who already has two gold medals, said that Popovich taking over as coach of the U.S. team will influence his decision on whether to play in the 2020 Tokyo Games.
“It factors a lot,” James said Saturday as the Cavaliers prepared to host Popovich’s San Antonio Spurs. “I’ve said that before. He’s just a great mastermind of the game of basketball.”
James skipped last summer’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro to get rest after leading Cleveland to an NBA championship. But he’s still connected with Team USA and Popovich replacing outgoing coach Mike Krzyzewski could be enough to draw James back to the Olympics.
James will be 36 in 2020, but his game is showing no signs of decay and the three-time NBA champ has relished his previous Olympic appearances. He was a key member of the American teams that captured gold in Beijing (2008) and (2012), performances that helped him and the U.S. squad erase some of the disappointment from taking bronze in Athens (2004).
Krzyzewski, the Duke coach who led the U.S. team to three consecutive gold medals, had a hand in naming Popovich as his successor.
For James, the pick was perfect.
“Team USA is in good hands with him,” James told the Associated Press in 2015. “It was in good hands with Coach K. It’s almost like `The Godfather.’ We hand it off to Michael Corleone now.”
The San Antonio Spurs will be without starters Tony Parker and Pau Gasol when they face the Cavaliers on Saturday night.
Parker was expected to play after being scratched Thursday with a sore left foot. However, the team said Saturday he is still experiencing pain and won’t play. The 34-year-old is averaging 11.5 points per game, his lowest since his rookie season in 2001.
Gasol is out indefinitely after breaking his left hand during warmups Thursday night. He underwent surgery Friday. While the team hasn’t put a timetable on his return, Gasol is likely to miss at least one month. He’s averaging 11.7 points and 7.9 rebounds.
David Lee is expected to start in Gasol’s spot.
The Cavaliers are hoping to have Kevin Love in the lineup after he missed Thursday’s game with back spasms. He took part in the team’s shoot-around Saturday but is listed as questionable.