Even if David Stern does not have the players on his side, he at least has the support of Dallas Maverick’s owner Mark Cuban. Cuban and Stern have both floated the idea that the basketball event of the Olympics, like soccer, should be made up of only players under the age of 23, with perhaps one or two players above that limit.
Though the idea is in the early stages of actually becoming reality, many players have already voiced their disdain with the plan. Plays have said it is one of the highest honors they can have, to put on a jersey and represent your country. Players also have said they prefer to play against professionals than pick-up games in the summer.
However, Mark Cuban is afraid that his assets, otherwise known as players for the Mavericks, could be injured. We have already seen Blake Griffin injured during the first few practices, and other players who are probably going to get a few bumps and bruises along the way.
But you know what? The best thing the league can do is to let the players play.
By limiting the league to those only those who are under 23, the visibility of players is greatly decreased. If the NBA wants to continue to grow their global presence, they should let the stars player. Many players are well known abroad, but some of the younger ones need to go abroad. Kevin Durant became a better player because he played in the qualifying and FIBA tournaments for his country.
Another great reason to let the stars play is the coaching staff. When the players play for their country, they have full access to facilities, treatment, and medical staff should anything happen. When players play pick-up games against whoever at the local gym, they have no access to coaches. Here, at least the owners can sleep easier at night knowing that the players are well looked after.
As stated above, I think another great reason is that the competition is a great thing for the star players. If they go to the local gym, players there are going to want to prove themselves. All it takes is one person to be upset and intentionally foul and injure someone. When playing against international stars, players are going to raise their game while playing in a way that does not (or one would hope) intentionally harm other players.
If I were a star NBA athlete, I would love to represent my country. Whether that is at the Olympics or World Cup of Basketball (formerly FIBA World Championships), there is no feeling like putting on that Team USA jersey. If anyone needs a reminder, all you have to do is watch “Miracle On Ice” and find the scene when Mike Eruzione, after hours of conditioning, says he plays for USA and not his collegiate school.
While owners would prefer their players do not participate, they should put themselves in the shoes of the athletes. If you got the call, would you sit around and watch your fellow athletes possibly win a gold medal, or would ou rather be there helping them win?