The American basketball team got some lucky bounces and some friendly whistles to survive Tunisia 110-63 Tuesday night in the London Olympics.
And Scotty Brooks, Sam Presti, Clay Bennett and everyone in a Big Blue T-shirt breathed a little easier. Pat Riley, the Buss family, the Gotham City Knickerbockers, too.
No one got hurt. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and their Yankee 'mates escaped unscathed, which means NBA superstars are a step closer to getting home healthy.
Also good news for Olympic basketball, for this reason. The next time a hoops hero ruptures an Achilles tendon or tears an ACL in the shadow of the Olympic flame, you can say bye-bye to the likes of Durant, LeBron and Kobe in international competition.
David Stern already wants to limit NBA participation in future Olympics. He's suggested a 23-year-old age limit, much like Olympic soccer uses. That would have kept the baby Boomers — Durant, Westbrook and Harden — on this U.S. team but hardly anyone else.
And Dallas Maverick owner Mark Cuban, who rarely gets smoke in his eyes, long has questioned the financial sanity of letting franchise cornerstones go play in rugged competition outside NBA parameters.
Especially, Cuban notes, in such a commercialized setting as the Olympics, when neither players nor the NBA owners who have invested so much in them, are compensated.
Some say Stern wants to set up a World Cup-style world championship that would trump the Olympics and be a revenue stream for the NBA. Maybe so. I don't know. But a major injury would squash even that idea.
A major injury to LeBron or Durant or any player of that caliber would be catastrophic for a franchise. The Miami Heat lost money in its championship season. The Thunder will be treading water to stay financially sound as it pays its young stars. Organizations have committed unspeakable amounts of money to these players now wearing the red, white and navy blue.
To incur such a calamity in the name of goodwill and some kind of athletic patriotism is asking a bit much. The NBA is big business. Every decision concerning personnel is big; every decision concerns risk/reward.
The risk of allowing franchise pillars to play in the Olympics does not match the reward.
Sure, these guys play all year round anyway. But most of their offseason basketball is confined to pickup games that are mostly about conditioning and skill-refinement. Not a lot of hard-core basketball is played. You rarely hear of offseason injuries in the NBA.
Playing for your country is a noble thing, I suppose, though the whole concept is a little silly in basketball. There's not any question which nation produces the best hoops. Olympic basketball is either a beauty pageant (Dream Team, maybe this 2012 squad), some kind of social experiment on whether superstars can get along or a referendum on putting together a roster, which the Americans miserably failed in 2004.
And even without major injury, owners have concerns.
“You can see it from the owners' side,” said 76ers coach Doug Collins, who played on the 1972 Olympic team when it was void of professionals and is NBC's game analyst in London. “That is, you've got a lot of money invested, you want them to get rested, you don't want them to get hurt.
“I think the concerns of the owners is if you do it consecutively in summers and your body never gets a rest.”
But that's an intangible ramification. There's nothing intangible about losing a superstar for an entire season. If it happens, Olympic basketball will be hard-pressed to remain the same, and stars' willingness to play for a gold medal will subside.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.