LAS VEGAS LeBron James was making no more guarantees. So although he was expected to miss the Americans' exhibition opener Friday because of a sprained right ankle, he wouldn't entirely rule himself out.
"I think it sounds like that, but I'll see how I feel," James said after practice Thursday. "I felt good today. I didn't do any contact drills today, but it felt good so see how I feel tomorrow."
James did little at practice for the second straight day, but was still the center of attention in the Valley High School gym with talk of his guaranteed gold medal in Time's Olympic preview, which was expected to hit newsstands Friday.
U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski said James is a "95 percent no-go" for the game against Canada. James, who was hurt when he stepped on Kevin Durant's foot Tuesday, was held out of a scrimmage for the second day in a row, although he did participate in drills.
"He hasn't had contact," Krzyzewski said. "We're better off giving him a few days."
James said the ankle is feeling better and could play if he needed to. The U.S. staff will probably prefer to be cautious so James doesn't cause any extra swelling of the ankle before the long flight to China during the weekend.
"You do worry about it because the flight automatically inflames it if you have an injury or something like that," James said. "So I think the training staff is going to do a good job putting something on it to try to keep the swelling down, but you do worry about it."
Nobody seemed too concerned with James' golden guarantee.
"You know what, I've never really understood the big deal about guaranteeing a win," Dwyane Wade said after practice. "I mean, we all feel we're going to win, so what's the difference with him saying we're going to win?
"They had on ESPN 'King-sized guarantee.' Well, we all guarantee that we're going to go over there and we're going to win. We're not guaranteeing we're going to lose. You're supposed to feel that you're going to win every game. You're not going over there to do nothing but win the gold. And that's what our vision is, that's what we're thinking, then say it."
James stopped short Thursday of saying "I guarantee" technically, he never did in the story, either but made it clear it's the way he feels.
"We don't have a choice but to win gold. That's what we're here for, so I believe in our team and I believe in what we can do out there," James said. "So I mean guarantee or however you want to look at it, we want to win and that's what we're looking forward to doing."
In Time's story, James compared 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."
Krzyzewski said he hadn't heard of James' guarantee. When told by reporters, he responded: "That's good. I hope he's right.
"The thing is, if I guarantee it, then I can't back it up," Krzyzewski said. "He has the ability to back it up. If he said it, then that's our goal. We know that it's going to be really difficult. I haven't talked to him about it."
James downplayed the value of a guarantee, pointing out that he's played in a postseason series when an opponent (Detroit's Rasheed Wallace) made one, but that, "You go out there and play no matter how you do it."
However, Jason Kidd the oldest and most experienced U.S. player in international play said it's probably best to avoid firing up the opposition.
"We have to understand everybody is going to be coming," Kidd said. "We don't want any headlines or any bulletin board stuff because everybody wants to see us lose and everybody is going to play their best against us. But at the same time, LeBron is going to make sure to go out there and play his best so we have to support him."
The Americans can only hope to do a better job living up to James' boast than they did to the one Carmelo Anthony made four years ago. Anthony guaranteed a gold medal after the first day of practice, but the U.S. went on to lose three times in the Olympics and settled for a bronze.
"It's different coming from him. It's a different situation," Anthony said. "If I guaranteed it, it'd be a whole bunch of other (stuff). But if he guarantees it, it ain't nothing. So I'm going to let him go ahead and guarantee that."