<
>

LeBron sits out scrimmage but ankle getting better

LAS VEGAS -- LeBron James guaranteed a gold medal for the Americans at the Olympics in Beijing, but he'll have to get healthy to complete the task.

James likely will miss
Friday's exhibition against Canada as he recovers from a mild right
ankle sprain.

James shot baskets on the sidelines but was held out of a
scrimmage at Valley High School on Wednesday.

"If the gold medal game was tomorrow, he'd play," coach Mike
Krzyzewski said. "But we're not playing the gold medal game, or a
medal round game right now. So we would rather be cautious right
now.

"I would say right now LeBron wouldn't play on Friday,"
Krzyzewski said. "I don't think that's a wise decision, especially
if he hasn't practiced."

James injured his ankle when he landed on Kevin Durant's foot
during a Tuesday scrimmage between Team USA and a select squad of
young NBA players. James said it improved overnight, and he moved
without a limp after reporters were admitted to the gym at the end
of practice.

"It's a lot better today than it was yesterday," he said.

Asked if he thought he could play against Canada, James said,
"Right now it's probably a 'no,' just for precautionary reasons.
But I will be ready once we hit the road."

James made his guarantee in a Time magazine story that hits newsstands Friday. The Cleveland Cavaliers superstar is featured on one of the covers of the Olympic preview issue.

After comparing the feeling of receiving a gold medal on the podium to opening a prized gift on Christmas morning, James was asked if that meant he would lead the Americans to the title.

"Absolutely," James responded.

Asked if he guaranteed it, he repeated, "Absolutely."

The Americans are the favorites, but they haven't won a major title since the 2000 Olympics. James was on third-place teams in the '04 games and the '06 world championships.

James has had problems with both ankles.

In January, James missed a game with the Cavaliers
because of an ankle sprain. He returned to score 28 points in a
victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Feb. 2.

A few weeks later, James left a game against Boston late in the
first half with an ankle injury. X-rays were negative and James
returned for the start of the second.

"I've done it so many times, I don't know if it's right or left
[ankle]," James said with a chuckle.

The Americans were relieved to learn that James' ankle responded
well on Wednesday. Although they're heavily favored to bring home
the gold medal for the first time since 2000, injuries could upset
the fragile balance of a team that is still learning to play
together.

"The team that can stay injury-free throughout these games,
that's a very good team that's going to have the best chance of
winning," James said. "So we need all 12 guys. No one can get
hurt."

The U.S. has already dealt with an injury to another starter,
center Dwight Howard, who is returning from a stress fracture to
his sternum.

Meanwhile, Dwyane Wade, one of the top reserves, is coming back
from left knee surgery. Krzyzewski said Wade has performed well
this week.

"I think Dwyane has been terrific," Krzyzewski said. "The
stuff he and [trainer] Tim Grover have done together in coming back
shows that he's made an amazing commitment to being in topflight
shape and getting over his injury. He's been kind of the most
pleasant surprise of our three days because he didn't know what to
expect because he was out the last portion of the season."

Players had at least a month off -- and in some cases several
months off -- between the end of their NBA seasons and the start of
training camp. But given the length of the regular season and the
playoffs, it's no surprise that many players are coping with aches
and pains.

Starting guard Kobe Bryant, for example, has a torn ligament in
his right pinkie, which could require surgery after the Olympics.
But the injury didn't stop Bryant from winning the NBA MVP award
and leading the Los Angeles Lakers to the NBA Finals.

"These guys are never 100 percent, and you know what, neither
are the guys we're playing against, because they're either in the
NBA or they're playing in the top league in Europe," Krzyzewski
said. "I think that equals out. So for us to even talk about it, I
think it shows a little weakness on our part.

"Although we're not making excuses, if we're always talking
about injury, or recovering from injury or whatever, it's almost
like, 'Feel sorry for us.' This is the way it is. A lot of people
go to work sick and aching."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.