After co-hosting 3SOB Radio this morning and then working for hours afterwards, I really just wanted to sit on the couch and soak up some air conditioning. Unfortunately, I forgot to pick up something from the store on my way home earlier, so I had to get in the car to head back out into the late afternoon humidity.
As is usually the case, my radio was tuned to sports talk, so I caught part of Jason Page‘s show on NBC Sports Radio. Page was explaining why, in the aftermath of the Paul George injury, the U.S. Men’s National Team should no longer be comprised of the top NBA players. In fact, he didn’t believe that any NBA players at all should be on the team. After all, why should an NBA franchise and its fans be forced to deal with losing a star player to an injury in a competition for which they are not under a contractual obligation to play? Instead, he proposed that the top players from the D-League should be the core of the new-look Team USA with a few high level college players thrown in, as well.
According to Page, not only should the D-League players be competitive since “basketball is our game, our sport”, but they should still be expected to win, although he did concede that they “might face a little competition from Spain”, should they meet up with them.
Now, I didn’t get to hear the program in its entirety, and I usually enjoy listening to Jason Page, so I’m inclined to give him a little bit of the benefit of the doubt in that he was being at least a little facetious in his suggestion. After all, it was all the Americans could do to defeat the Spaniards two years ago in London in the Olympics with one of the best collections of talent the basketball world has seen since the original Dream Team. However, it did get me to thinking about something that Kelly Dwyer said on Twitter last night about why NBA stars are, shall we say, “leaned on” to participate in these “international competitions”.
Just awoke to the same reminder that the only thing the NBA cares about is money and that it shames players into “international” play
— Kelly Dwyer (@KDonhoops) August 2, 2014
You see, both Page and KD have hit on the basis of the NBA-FIBA partnership: money. Lots and lots of money, in fact.
On the one hand, NBA teams see their players run the risk of injury which affects their franchise and overall product when a guy like Paul George (or Pau Gasol in 2006) is out for numerous games, if not an entire season.
On the other hand, many of these players are pressured by their employer (NBA) and the same company a majority of them have their shoe/apparel deal with (NIKE) to play and help expand the reach of both of their brands.
Mark Cuban might have said it best when he proclaimed in 2012, “If you look up stupid in the dictionary, you see a picture of the USA Dream Team playing for free for corporate America so the U.S. Olympic Committee can make billions of dollars.”
Cuban, certainly not shy in his opposition to having key contributors to his Dallas Mavericks squad playing in off-season competitions, might not be eloquent, but he makes a valid point. After all, it is the owners of these teams that take the majority of the risk.
The Pacers will not be on the hook for all of Paul George’s contract this upcoming season (disability insurance will cover approximately 80% of the nearly $16 million he was slated to make this year), but even with a disability exception, they can only bring in a player making around $5.3 million as a replacement — not that replacing George is remotely possible at any price at this point, as Dwyer noted in his column a few hours ago.
Once again, though we see that the issue of money is what is being bandied about. NIKE and Team USA make money off of having stars represent America. The NBA also benefits from having its stars play in international tournaments overseas. Yet, the owners and fans paying for season tickets to see those same players reside in North America, and it is little solace to them to know that the NBA’s popularity has been raised a quarter of a percent overseas by the inclusion of NBA stars clad in Nike’s newest Team USA swag, no matter how good they look.
As we discussed on 3SOB Radio this morning, it’s a fascinating thing to note how quickly people changed their tunes from debating the merits of DeMarcus Cousins vs. Mason Plumlee’s spot on the Team USA roster to questioning why any NBA stars are playing on the squad at all. Unfortunately, much like will happen with the NFL and its concussion problems, and MLB and its PEDs, all of it will soon fade to the background as we sit on our couches and pretend to ignore the glaring issues that won’t be going away, but we will tacitly condone by our inaction that equates to acceptance. Why do we do that? Because we love our entertainment almost as much as executives love their money.
I’ll leave you with this as a final thought that I agree with:
Cut from my column: I want to watch NBA players play basketball 365 days a year, but tourneys like these are pointless and need to end.
— Kelly Dwyer (@KDonhoops) August 2, 2014