USA to open against Puerto Rico at basketball worlds

Updated: January 15, 2006, 12:40 PM ET
Associated Press

TOKYO -- The U.S. team led by LeBron James will face Puerto Rico at the world basketball championships in August, providing a chance to avenge its lopsided loss at the Athens Olympics.

The opening game on Aug. 19 in Sapporo, Japan, will be a rematch of a 92-73 loss to Puerto Rico at the 2004 Olympics. That opening-game loss marked only the third Olympic defeat for the Americans and first since adding professional players. The United States finished with a bronze medal at the games.

Sunday's draw put the top-seeded U.S. team in Group D along with Slovenia, Italy, China and Senegal.

"It's a very competitive group," said USA Basketball executive director Jim Tooley. "The Puerto Rican team is familiar with our style of play, we both know each other well and hopefully the result will be better this time."

The United States last won gold at Toronto in 1994, and placed a disappointing sixth at the 2002 tournament in Indianapolis.

Defending champion Serbia-Montenegro will play Nigeria in the opening round. Serbia-Montenegro, formerly Yugoslavia, has a record five world titles and is in Group A with Argentina, which won gold in Athens.

James committed to the U.S. team on Saturday. He told USA Basketball chief Jerry Colangelo that he would play at this year's world championships and the 2008 Olympics.

Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs will not be a part of the U.S. team. Philadelphia's Allen Iverson has said he is willing to make the commitment.

Colangelo is expected to announce the first batch of camp invitees by the NBA All-Star break in mid-February. The team will be coached by Duke's Mike Krzyzewski.

The 24-team 2006 FIBA Men's World Championship will be held Aug. 19-Sept. 3.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press