On Wednesday, Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski detailed NBA commissioner David Stern's severe backtracking as he attempted to save face amongst the worldwide chorus of boos that met his suggestion that the next Team USA Men's Basketball roster be comprised of players aged 23 or younger. Stern attempted to couch the suggestion with the hint that this was some sort of starry-eyed look toward the future of youth-focused hoops that dovetailed nicely with the idea that NBA teams were becoming more and more uncomfortable with sending their veteran stars off to international competition.
Of course, this was all trumped up benevolence. Stern just wanted to clear the room for his new World Cup of Basketball project as pitched in concert with FIBA. Nothing to do with letting the kids play and the veterans sit. And, as fans, we won't have to worry about losing out on a chance to see NBA stars in their primes play Olympic ball, because according to SI.com's Ian Thomsen, there's no chance that a legislating change to the under-23 rule could be put in place in time enough to see things switched by the 2016 Olympics. Here's Ian:
The NBA's interest in pursuing an age ceiling for Olympic basketball is "unlikely'' to be instituted in time for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, according to the source, who has direct knowledge of the talks involving the International Olympic Committee and FIBA, the international ruling body for basketball.
It would be more than great fun, even in the wake of the most aesthetically pleasing Team USA run in two decades, to see a cast of young NBA pups take over Team USA on an Olympic stage. There would be growing pains, to be sure, but there's also enough stateside talent to fit the criteria and remain tournament favorites. If not massive, overwhelming favorites.
And, yes, it would be nice as an objective NBA fan to not have to wonder how all these Olympic reps are going to wear on the bodies of players like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, two former champions who are planning on playing deep into June next season. Or even hopeful champs like Chris Paul and Tyson Chandler that have dealt with significant injury woes in the past. There would be benefits, or silver linings at best, to a move like this.
That move would have to be irrespective of this newfangled World Cup, which would have Team USA still trotting out the heavy-hitters every four years. Guilting them with the image concerns that would stem from looking unpatriotic, while making the NBA and FIBA millions. The fatigue would still be as big a concern, with the payoff heading elsewhere.
As Eric Freeman discussed last month, few are on board with the under-23 plan, from the Kobe-est of Kobe Bryants right down to the fans in the comment sections. The timing is flawed, with so many transcendent NBA stars about to hit their prime, and that's without the context of the demanding (and, let's cop to it, greedy) NBA/FIBA alliance in the proposed World Cup. And this isn't even diving into the frustration that would come all the other countries that, as Woj detailed on Wednesday, kind of like to play basketball too. Above the age of 23, even.
David Stern, as internationally-focused as he's been over the last two decades, sure can act like a land-locked American at times, blissfully unaware that other countries do exist outside his own. For the interim, though, there will be no change. Thank goodness for that, and we'll see you in 2016 in Brazil, boys!
[ Photos: Team USA goes for Olympic gold ]
(Oh, wait. I think I just figured out why veteran NBA players aren't on board with the under-23 rule.)
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