Lakers’ LeBron James still wants to participate in 2024 Paris Olympics, but says health will play major role

Despite being 39 years old, LeBron James still wants to compete in the Paris Games this summer. But during NBA All-Star weekend in Indianapolis, James admitted that his ability to play in the 2024 Olympics will depend on his health.

“The most important thing for me is definitely my health,” said James, whose last Olympics was the London Games. James’ Team USA squads won gold in 2012 and 2008, and bronze in 2004.

The Los Angeles Lakers are currently in ninth place in the Western Conference with a 30-26 record but still look like potential postseason contenders. If the Lakers are able to make a deep playoff run, that could throw a wrench into James’ Olympic plans if he’s banged up at all.

“I told myself before the season, when I committed to being part of the Olympic team, obviously it was all predicated on my health,” James said. “As it stands right now, I am healthy enough to be on the team and perform at a level that I know I can perform at.”

If the Lakers are able to reach the Western Conference finals or even the NBA Finals, James would still have time to rest up, but it’s also possible that he doesn’t want to tax his body anymore during the Paris Games, which will run from July 26 to Aug. 11.

After all, it’s likely that James still has a few more seasons left in the tank, so that could also be a contributing factor.

“It’s more miles put on these tires,” James said. “But if I’m committed — which I am — to Team USA, then I’m going to commit my mind, body and soul to being out there for Team USA, being out there representing our country with the utmost respect and go out there and play.”

James is now past the midway point of his 21st season, and he’s made it clear he isn’t sure how many more NBA seasons he plans to play.

The Lakers star has already become one of the most accomplished players in NBA history. He’s fresh off his 20th All-Star Game appearance, which is the most ever. During the 2022-23 season, James passed Kareem-Abdul Jabbar for the most points in NBA history, and is now just 132 points from tallying 40,000 points in his regular-season career.

Timberwolves guard signs two-year, $21 million extension, per report

Mike Conley has agreed to a two-year, $21 million contract extension with the Minnesota Timberwolves, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The Timberwolves, owners of the Western Conference’s No. 1 seed at the All-Star break, now have their starting lineup locked up going into next season.

Conley, who was acquired in a deadline deal that cost Minnesota D’Angelo Russell in 2023, has been everything the Timberwolves could have hoped for as their starting point guard. He has been a stabilizing force on an offense built around young superstar Anthony Edwards. His presence has made life significantly easier on both ends of the floor for former Utah Jazz teammate Rudy Gobert, who is favored to win his fourth Defensive Player of the Year award this season. Minnesota is 49-25 overall with Conley in the fold.

Getting Conley back at this price is a boon for a Timberwolves team facing a severe financial crunch. Right now, the Timberwolves have roughly $185 million on the books for next season dedicated to nine players.

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The projected second apron for next season is $189.5 million, and Minnesota is nearly a lock to exceed that figure. That will likely mean the loss of impending free-agent forward Kyle Anderson, but the rest of the core will be in place.

That includes their starting point guard, who is now locked into a deal that will pay him less than the non-taxpayer mid-level exception. He almost certainly could have earned more on the open market, but in Minnesota, Conley has his best chance to genuinely contend for a championship. Now he’ll be able to do so for the next two seasons at least.

Nets promote Kevin Ollie to interim head coach after firing Jacque Vaughn, per report

The Brooklyn Nets have fired head coach Jacque Vaughn, the team announced Monday morning. Kevin Ollie is set to be named the interim head coach in Brooklyn, per ESPN. The Nets, now 21-33, have fallen out of the top 10 in the Eastern Conference and made a change over the NBA All-Star break with 28 games left on their regular-season schedule. Ollie’s first game will come Thursday night against the Raptors.

Ollie, previously the head coach at the University of Connecticut and the head of coaching and player development at Overtime Elite, joined Vaughn’s staff ahead of the 2023-24 season. Ollie spent 13 seasons in the NBA as a player, and he helped guide UConn to a national championship in 2014. He was a candidate for the Detroit Pistons head coaching job last summer before the team hired Monty Williams.

Vaughn took over the Nets under less than ideal circumstances. After serving as interim coach in 2020 after the firing of Kenny Atkinson, he remained on the staff under new coach Steve Nash. When Nash got fired early last season, Vaughn was again tapped as the interim replacement.

That interim tag was removed following a hot start, but things fell apart in the middle of the season when extension talks with Kyrie Irving broke down and he sought a trade. The Nets sent him to Dallas and followed that move up by dealing Kevin Durant to the Phoenix Suns. With a suddenly rebuilding roster, the Nets declined. They fell to the No. 6 seed in last year’s postseason, and now, at 21-33, they sit in 11th place in the Eastern Conference this year. They have gone 8-23 since their impressive 13-10 start.

The Nets are now somewhat stuck between eras. They lack the star power of the Durant-Irving years, but with the Houston Rockets owning so many of their first-round picks from the James Harden trade, they aren’t in an ideal position to rebuild either. They’ve accumulated plenty of picks from other teams in recent trades, and those picks could potentially help them land a new star to pair with Mikal Bridges. Of course, maintaining a winning culture in between those two eras would go a long way in recruiting such a player. Vaughn hasn’t done so, and now the Nets are moving on.

Vaughn is the third Eastern Conference coach to get fired this season. The Washington Wizards made a coaching change from Wes Unseld Jr. to Brian Keefe while the Milwaukee Bucks replaced Adrian Griffin with Doc Rivers. That means that 20% of the Eastern Conference has already made coaching changes this season, and when the offseason arrives, more could easily come.