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James likely will miss U.S. exhibition game |

James likely will miss U.S. exhibition game

| Thursday, July 24, 2008 12:00 a.m

LAS VEGAS — U.S. forward LeBron 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.”

The Cleveland Cavaliers star 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 has had problems with both ankles.

In January, James missed a game with Cleveland 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.”

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