ANDREW ROSS  /  AFP/Getty Images
USA Men's National Team basketball player LeBron James, left, practices during training session ahead of the USA Basketball International Challenge in Macau on July 30.
updated 7/30/2008 1:04:24 PM ET 2008-07-30T17:04:24

The United States players are eager to hit someone else, and LeBron James is ready to take a hit.

James will be back in the lineup Thursday when the Americans face Turkey in an exhibition game, and said he won't be worried about the mildly sprained right ankle that kept him out of action last week.

So if James has a lane to the basket, he's going strong, just as he always does.

"Oh, I'm ready," James said before practice Wednesday. "I'm ready. I'm ready. We're going to see tomorrow night I guess."

James probably could have played last week, but realizing there was still plenty of time before the start of the Olympics on Aug. 10, the U.S. coaching staff opted to rest him to avoid further swelling.

Time is running out now, so James is anxious to jump back in and shake the rust.

"They're very big because we have to continue to get better every day, every practice, every game that we play in to prepare ourselves for the Olympics," James said. "So they're very important. It's a significant amount of time that we need to use in these games and practices to help us get better for the Olympics."

The Americans have played one exhibition game, beating Canada 120-65 on Friday in Las Vegas. Otherwise, it's been nothing but practices for a team that's hungry for real competition.

They're about to get it, playing three times in a four-night stretch across two cities.

"We look forward to playing," forward Carlos Boozer said. "We've been beating each other up so much in practice. We just want to play somebody else at this point."

Turkey didn't qualify for the Olympics and could be without two top players in Hedo Turkoglu and Mehmet Okur, so the Americans' game against Lithuania on Friday is the marquee matchup here. The arena in the Venetian Macao is sold out for the contest between medal hopefuls.

The United States split a pair of close games with Lithuania four years ago, including a victory for the bronze medal. The Americans' last championship team had two tough matchups with the Lithuanians in 2000, an 85-76 victory in pool play — the first single-digit margin since pros began playing in 1992 — and an 85-83 victory in the semifinals after Sarunas Jasikevicius' missed 3-pointer in the closing seconds.

While some U.S. players acknowledged looking forward to seeing Lithuania, which won three consecutive Olympic bronze medals before the Americans beat them four years ago, point guard Jason Kidd said just getting competition is all that matters.

"I don't think it's so much about the opponent, I think you can get up just because it's preparation for the Olympics," he said. "So Lithuania, Turkey, whoever it may be, we get up no matter who it is."

The Americans travel to Shanghai the day after that game, then face European champion Russia on Sunday afternoon. They finish their exhibition schedule against Australia next Tuesday.

The United States already looked good last week without James. Now he can't wait to see how the Americans look when he takes the floor with them.

"We've had some great practices and everything is on schedule," James said. "Matter of fact, we're ahead of schedule the way we look now, so it's fun."

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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