Is Roy Hibbert the answer in the middle for Team USA? (Getty Images)
Between injuries to Dwight Howard, LaMarcus Aldridge and Chris Bosh, and the implosion of Lamar Odom, the U.S. national basketball team that will compete in this summer's 2012 London Olympics looks like it could be suffering from a perilous dearth of big men. The current Team USA roster includes one healthy center, Tyson Chandler, and only three other players — power forwards Blake Griffin and Kevin Love, and recent addition/putative draftee Anthony Davis — who stand 6-foot-10. Even the ranks of non-national-program-approved prospective American big men seem to be thinning, given the apparently impending Filipino naturalization of JaVale McGee.
Man, it's a shame that Roy Hibbert, who earned his first NBA All-Star selection this year and has become an integral piece for an Indiana Pacers team playing in the Eastern Conference semifinals, isn't eligible for Team USA duty as a result of the appearances he has made for the Jamaican national basketball team in international competition over the past four years, including a run as that squad's captain. Hibbert was born in Queens, N.Y., to a Jamaican father and a Trinidadian mother, and he made his first appearance with the Jamaican national team in 2008.
A 25-year-old dude who is 7-foot-2 and averaged 15.5 points, 10.6 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per 36 minutes in the best league in the world would sure seem like someone worth considering for some minutes in the middle against the rest of the world's best. Oh, well.
/walks away, kicks a rock, frowns not quite imperceptibly
In an interview with Robert Bailey at the Jamaica Gleaner, Jamaica Basketball Association President Ajani Williams — a 6-foot-10 former forward who earned training camp invites with the Orlando Magic and Atlanta Hawks before retiring, and whom noted international hoops source ShamSports.com referred to as "a basketball vagabond with an enormous vertical leap" — said that Hibbert has asked to be released from his responsibilities to the Jamaican side "in order to become eligible to play for the United States at this summer's Olympic Games."
As you might expect, though, it's not quite as simple as all that:
However, there are some compliance issues that have to be worked out with USA Basketball and the world governing body FIBA.
"Our simple response was that we can't just handle this matter from JaBA to the player or from JaBA to the agent, and so on, it has to be from JaBA to the USA Basketball Federation," said Williams.
"The United States Federation would need to write us and state that they want this player, and at that point JaBA can speak directly to the federation and FIBA, based on the player transferring from one national team to another," Williams said.
Also, Jamaica would ... you know ... have to want to just allow a 7-foot-2 All-Star who is its only legitimate NBA player (unless you count Patrick Ewing Jr., maybe, and you shouldn't) to walk out the door. And, judging by that Gleaner interview, it doesn't sound like Williams does:
Williams added that his association has invested a lot in Hibbert, and therefore they will be seeking compensation for his release.
"JaBA just can't just release him because there was a cost that goes into getting Roy Hibbert. We paid a lot of money for NBA insurance for him," Williams said.
"We also did a lot of things around him, and so there are going to be several considerations before JaBA releases him," he added.
I suspect those considerations will primarily be green and have presidents' faces on them, but hey, maybe I'm a cynic. It's also worth noting that, in addition to present Team USA bigs Chandler, Griffin and Love, coach Mike Krzyzewski could consider the likes of DeMarcus Cousins, Derrick Favors and Taj Gibson, all of whom were reportedly recently added to the USA Select Team roster in the event that getting Hibbert cleared for stars-and-stripes duty doesn't come to fruition. Still, though: A true, legitimate big man with international experience who's playing the best ball of his career and wants to represent the U.S. isn't something that Coach K and his pals should sneeze at.
Securing Hibbert's rights from the Jamaican national team might not be as complicated as, say, getting Canada to let Matt Bonner be Canadian, but it's still a hurdle that Hibbert, his representation and Jerry Colangelo's crew would have to leap before the Pacers' pivot could don the red, white and blue. That leap can happen, though. The question is, how much would USA Basketball be willing to pay for Roy Hibbert? One has to wonder if the balance of the Eastern Conference playoffs would in any way mitigate the bid.
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