NBA players were never going to be a part of this year's Team USA entry into the Pan Am games, because the tournament tips off the same week the NBA is supposed to tip off its season. As a result, NBDL players will fill that roster, which is a very cool move. Assuming that is how far it goes.
Why? Because as Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski just pointed out, the scorched-earth scenario that could cancel the entire 2011-12 season will no doubt leave the 2012 version of Team USA without NBA players for next year's Olympics in London.
Team USA is too tied to the NBA — too much of a David Stern production — for the players to break ranks and play. In the post 9-11 world, that's a tricky subject PR-wise for the players, but several union, USA Basketball and agent sources believe this worst-case labor scenario would cost Team USA its NBA stars.
As the managing director of USA Basketball, Jerry Colangelo answers to Stern, and the league — along with its ATM machine, Nike — has immense impact on the coaching staff and roster. How could the NBA allow its coaches — Team USA assistants Nate McMillan and Mike D'Antoni — to coach NBA players during a lockout?
They won't, as was the case in 1998 when a Brad Miller(notes)-led group of either undrafted free agents or college players nearly led Team USA to the gold in the World Championships, during the last NBA lockout. If the 2011-12 season is lost, the lack of immediacy to get a deal done during summer will no doubt mirror the lack of immediacy during this one, because once again players will not lose paychecks until the fall of 2012. Don't expect a quicker turnaround.
In regards to the NBDL players working the Pan Am Games? It's a good thing, provided it doesn't carry over. These are adult pros, and while they won't have the same sort of team chemistry that other participants in the Games will showcase, there will be enough talent there to compete for the gold.
With the 2011 Pan American Games less than three months off, USA Basketball and the NBA Development League today announced plans that call for the USA Men's Pan American Games Team roster to be comprised of coaches and players from the NBA Development League. USA Basketball also announced that Tulsa 66ers head coach Nate Tibbetts has been selected to serve as the USA's head coach and that 66ers assistant coach Dale Osbourne will fill one of the team's two assistant coach positions. One additional assistant coach and the players who will contend for roster positions will be announced at a later date.
The team's training camp will tip off in mid-October, at a location to be announced.
You can't "scab" your way onto an Olympic team. If you're from the country, and are the best available athlete that wants to participate, then you earn what you earn -- even if Kobe Bryant(notes) and Dwyane Wade(notes) are watching from home. We can't guess that it's likely or even worth talking about until it becomes a possibility that the NBA season is lost, but this could happen.
Congrats to the NBDL players, either way. Whatever happens, it will be well-deserved.
And congrats to the NBA, and its players, for making this uneasy scenario a possibility. Another notch on their belts.