At the College Basketball Roundtable each week, we ask members of the coverage staff their opinion about a current topic in the sport.
Today's question: Would you like to see the U.S. Olympics basketball team return to using strictly college players?
Jeff Eisenberg's answer: No. Although calls to reduce NBA players' involvement with Team USA will only increase as a result of Blake Griffin's torn meniscus earlier this week, I hope USA Basketball sticks with the current model. Yes, the injury risk for the NBA's elite players is an issue, but that's a worthwhile risk for league owners to take because the NBA as a whole is benefiting from the interest Olympic basketball is generating. The majority of the world's elite players have bought into the appeal of representing their countries. Fans are tuning in to see the best players in the world play together and against one-another. And the NBA is getting exposure for both its U.S. and international stars. Hardcore hoops fans would still watch if the U.S. team was a college all-star team or if it adopted soccer's U-23 model, but the appeal for the casual Olympics audience surely would diminish considerably.
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Mike Huguenin's answer: I would, yes. Is it going to happen? No way. I can see David Stern's relatively recent proposal of putting an age limit on the players (23) get passed. But I think player participation is a double-edged sword for NBA teams. There is no question basketball in other parts of the world is miles better than it used to be, and I think the NBA's participation in the Olympics is a major reason. That means that the NBA also has grown as a business proposition worldwide. On the other hand, I think NBA owners, GMs and coaches will, as usual, be holding their breath all summer worrying about injuries. And forget injuries for a second: Where is the down time this summer for guys such as LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant? They go straight from the NBA playoffs (and a truncated-yet-compressed regular season) to the Olympics to training camp. Would the United States dominate Olympic basketball if pros didn't play? No. Ultimately, that is why I think NBA players will continue to be on the rosters.
Steve Megargee's answer: No. When the United States went to the "Dream Team" format in 1992 and started allowing NBA players, I wasn't a big fan of the idea. I liked the notion that the United States was relying on its college guys, even if it occasionally became a losing proposition as the level of play improved across the world. But I think it would be foolish to go back now, particularly since the level of play in college basketball simply isn't nearly as good now as it was in the 1980s or early 1990s because so many guys leave school to enter the draft as soon as possible. Keep in mind that the lone college player on the Dream Team was Christian Laettner, who stayed at Duke all four years. Nowadays, the actual pro prospect who plays four years of college basketball is the rare exception. College basketball's top pro prospects generally stay in school only one or two years. Frankly, many of the players on this year's Olympic team wouldn't be far removed from their college days if they had played in an era when guys stayed in school all four years. The average age of the players on the 1988 U.S. team that won the bronze medal was 21.6. Nobody on that team was younger than 20. The current 2012 U.S. Olympic roster has five players who still haven't celebrated their 24th birthday: Anthony Davis (19), Kevin Durant (23), James Harden (22), Kevin Love (23) and Russell Westbrook (23).
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