James, Leonard headline 44 bets for US team

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    LEBRON James, Kawhi Leonard and James Harden are among the 44 finalists for the 12 spots on the 2020 US Olympic men’s basketball team.

    USA Basketball announced the candidates on Monday, and they include nine members of the United States’ 2016 Olympic team and seven from the 2012 squad. Both teams won gold medals.

    The roster will be announced later this year. The 2020 Olympics will be held in Tokyo from July 24 to Aug. 9. The men’s basketball gold medal game is Aug. 8.

    “The commitment, desire and excitement of all of our athletes to represent their country is genuine and remarkable,” said Jerry Colangelo, USA Basketball managing director, in a statement. “All of the finalists are exceptionally gifted athletes who offer us amazing versatility and depth, and the group of finalists features a range of players from those who are very experienced and accomplished in international basketball to players who will be future international stars.”

    All 44 finalists have international or USA Basketball National Team experience. James, a three-time Olympic medalist, has the most international experience with 68 games played.

    “Over the course of the remainder of the NBA season we’ll continue to monitor all of the athletes,” Colangelo said. “Selecting the 12-man USA roster will obviously be an extremely challenging and difficult process, and we will again attempt to select the very best team possible to represent our country and who we hope will be successful in our difficult mission of repeating as Olympic champions for a fourth consecutive Olympics.”

    Twelve nations will compete in the 2020 Games. Already qualified are the United States, host Japan, Argentina, Australia, France, Iran, Nigeria and Spain.

    Team USA will be coached by San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who is taking over from Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski. Assistant coaches are Steve Kerr (Golden State Warriors), Lloyd Pierce (Atlanta Hawks) and Jay Wright (Villanova).