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News » International play taking toll on NBA players 2008-09-05

International play taking toll on NBA players 2008-09-05

International play taking toll on NBA players 2008-09-05
Now comes the backlash from the Olympic Games that brought the gold medal in basketball back to the NBA — excuse me, the United States — where it belongs.

NBA offseason


  • Abdur-Rahim retires with knee woes
  • Dixon returns to Wizards as free agent
  • Celtics' Miles suspended 10 games
  • Wolves' Jefferson sprains knee
  • Point guard re-signs with Cavs


  • Rosen: Answering your NBA questions
  • Kahn: Ranking the top 10 SGs
  • Rosen: Which youth will be served?

That's not to say everybody isn't thrilled, from every player to the coaching staff of Mike Krzyzewski, Mike D'Antoni, Nate McMillan and Jim Boeheim. The feather is even growing in the cap of managing director Jerry Colangelo, with evidence that the three-year commitment he got from the players and his choice of team was right on the mark.

To be sure, NBA commissioner David Stern continues to glow, not only because the U.S. won, but the response in China was great and his dream of expanding the NBA into a worldwide hybrid league to ultimately create billions in revenue (despite a broken franchise model in this country) gained steam.

So everybody is happy, right?

Well, not exactly. As seems to always be the case, the San Antonio Spurs suffer the brunt of international play because they have had the best conglomeration of international players on their roster. They pleaded with All-Star guard Manu Ginobili not to play for Argentina in the Olympics despite knowing all along that his fierce competitiveness wouldn't allow him to bag the opportunity to help defend the gold medal won in 2004.

They had a great case considering his obviously problematic ankle stifled his performance in the NBA playoffs and cost the Spurs a chance to repeat as NBA champs. Now it could be worse. The Spurs refer to it as an impingement to the posterior ligament in his left ankle. To simplify matters, he'll likely miss the first month of the regular season.

This isn't new to them. It's been part and parcel nearly every season. Whether it's Ginobili, Tony Parker or Tim Duncan, there have been consequences to offseason international play for the Spurs through at least the past six years or so.

Of course, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich generally bites his tongue, even this season when he was clearly passed over for the head coaching job for the Olympic team despite his obvious qualifications as the best man available. But Pop is nothing if not a patriot, an Air Force Academy graduate, so his mouth stays closed in the aftermath.

But this is nothing new. Two years ago in the wake of the World Championships in Japan, where the U.S. settle for a bronze medal, it seemed nearly every player on the team suffered injuries that either stilted his performance and produced an injury from lack of rest in the offseason.

From LeBron James' ankle, to Elton Brand's knee injury and Chris Bosh's knee, and ultimately the falling apart of Dwyane Wade from shoulder to knee — the impact from going to Japan was undeniable. That's not to say it absolutely will happen in the coming season, but history says there will be ramifications.

It had to be a real contradiction for Miami Heat fans to watch Wade play at a superstar level in Beijing when they were robbed of the 2007-08 season. In their season of discontent gone by, he missed the first two weeks and the last two weeks of their 15-win season. Sure, it got them Michael Beasley in the draft, but is it fair to the fans who invest thousands, or even tens of thousands of dollars as season ticket holders? And keep in mind this was the second year in a row Wade played in just 51 games for the Heat.

Bosh seems to be the real gamble now for the Toronto Raptors. Not only did Raptors president Bryan Colangelo gamble this offseason on trading for the damaged body of Jermaine O'Neal to the tune of nearly $44 million over the next two years, but now he's got to be concerned about Bosh's nagging knee issues after playing in China. He missed 13 games after the World Championships and played a career-low 67 games last season.

That's not to say the players don't have the right to play in the Olympics, and almost nobody except for the ultimate maverick Mark Cuban will dare be so politically incorrect as to question the logic in guys NBA owners are investing tens of millions of dollars in risking their franchise's future by committing three summers to Team USA.

Has everybody forgotten that Kobe Bryant still hasn't gotten that torn ligament fixed in his right hand that doctors said he should have had done in FEBRUARY?

It's tough to be the curmudgeon in the face of a gold medal, and here's hoping that Bryant remembers to have that problematic pinky taken care of; Wade is all the way back physically; James' ankle ligaments aren't looser than before; Bosh's knee is stronger; and after surgery, Ginobili will no longer have problems with his left ankle moving forward.

But don't we know better. The players are bigger, faster and stronger than ever before, which means the contact is far more intense on the floor and that translates into them being more susceptible to injury — particularly when they are tired. The management of NBA teams has to be smart enough to know that it will behoove their big picture to take it slow with the guys that just came back from the rigors of the Olympics with training camp less than five weeks away.

And it will also require teammates to respect and not resent the treatment their superstar brethren are receiving. It's hard to forget the anger and commentary spewing from Horace Grant 16 years ago in the parking lot of the Berto Center in suburban Chicago when neither Michael Jordan nor Scottie Pippen had to start Bulls training camp on time in the wake of the Dream Team exploits in Barcelona.

That's not to say any of this is going to happen, but I can't help but wonder ...

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: September 5, 2008


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