Olympic basketball is one injury away from a big change

Berry Tramel: NBA stars like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook won't be playing for the USA if David Stern and Mark Cuban have their way. The risk is too great for star players to play in the Olympics.
by Berry Tramel Modified: July 31, 2012 at 6:08 pm •  Published: July 31, 2012
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photo - USA's Russell Westbrook, center, drives to the basket against Tunisia's Mourad El Mabrouk, left, during a men's basketball game at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Tuesday, July 31, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) ORG XMIT: OBKO171
USA's Russell Westbrook, center, drives to the basket against Tunisia's Mourad El Mabrouk, left, during a men's basketball game at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Tuesday, July 31, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) ORG XMIT: OBKO171

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 btramel@opubco.com. 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.


by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The...
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