LeBron James will skip the United States’ FIBA Basketball World Cup defence in China later this year.
The early end to James’ NBA season will provide the Los Angeles Lakers star more free time than he has had in nearly a decade, but he will not fill it with more basketball.
The Lakers announced on Saturday that James has been shut down for the rest of the season so he can allow a nagging groin injury to heal. Los Angeles had been eliminated from the playoff race a week earlier.
But James does not plan to join Team USA for the World Cup, which will be played in China from August 31 to September 15, despite his fondness for new coach Gregg Popovich.
“I love everything about Pop, obviously,” James told The Athletic. “But this is not a good summer for me.”
That had been James’ plan all along, as he is set to spend a good portion of his offseason filming ‘Space Jam 2’, with production set to begin in mid-June. The Athletic reported that a regulation basketball court will be built on set to allow James to continue to train during filming.
Depending on how James feels next season, though, he might still represent his country one more time. He said he has not made a decision yet about the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“Yeah, that’s a possibility,” he said. “It depends on how I feel. I love the Olympics.”
James sat out the Rio Games in 2016 but had participated in the previous three Olympics, helping USA to gold medals in 2012 and 2008 and a bronze in 2004.