“That’s a big loss,” U.S. Coach Mike Krzyzewski said of Griffin after Team USA thrashed the Dominican Republic, 113-59, Thursday night at Thomas and Mack Center. “Blake was playing really well for us.”
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has been one of the most outspoken critics of the Dream Team concept and recently called the continued use of free superstar labor for the Olympic team the “epitome of stupidity” since owners assume most of the risk if their multimillion dollar investments get injured.
Cuban has recently found an ally in none other than NBA Commissioner David Stern, who played an instrumental role in opening the door for Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and other Hall of Famers to suit up for the Olympics in 1992. Stern has constantly trumpeted those players’ roles in the globalization of the game. More recently, however, he has suggested that FIBA, the sport’s international governing body, should switch to a model similar to one used in soccer, selecting players age 23 and under to participate in the Olympics while allowing veterans to play in the world championships.
“This is not just a response to Mark Cuban,” Stern said during the NBA Finals. “In fact, usually when Mark says something, I try to go the other way. But actually when he is right about something, he may actually be right, and here I think he actually has a point. I really do.”
For members of the current Olympic team, the lure of a gold medal far outweighs the risk of injury when considering participation in the event.
USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo contends that success on the world stage has spurred improved individual performances and a better overall NBA product. Kobe Bryant went on to win back-to-back NBA championships and LeBron James won back-to-back most valuable player awards after claiming the gold medal in the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
Derrick Rose won an MVP award and both Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook made their first all-star appearances after winning gold medals in the 2010 world championships.
Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, James’s teammates with the NBA champion Miami Heat, both had to withdraw from the Olympic team because of injuries; Wade had surgery on his left knee and Bosh needed time to recover from an abdominal strain suffered during the postseason. But James, the regular season and Finals MVP, said he never considered backing out of his commitment to the national team, though he has previously participated in two Olympics and the world championships.