By Steve Silverman
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If you watched the U.S. Olympic basketball team play Australia, you saw a team that was hardly interested in competing throughout the first half and early into the third.
The situation appeared to reach the semi-critical stage when Australia scored the first 11 points of the third quarter and pulled within three points.
That’s when Kobe Bryant decided to play some basketball. The same Kobe who was scoreless in the first half and the same Kobe who said that he and his teammates could have competed with and beaten the 1992 Dream Team.
Bryant hit three consecutive three pointers. That was the impetus for the Americans to take charge and run away with a 119-86 victory. Bryant scored a dominant 20 points and looked like one of the two best players in the world, with LeBron James being the other.
The United States is certainly on its way to a gold medal. It would take a horrific showing by the U.S. in the next two games not to get the gold.
The Dream Team effectively raised basketball to an art form, but aside from that showing in Barcelona there’s really no point in the best NBA players competing for the U.S. in the Olympics.
Basketball is not like ice hockey or soccer where the competition around the world is so good that sending our best players leads to great drama and raises the game to a new level.
In the past, the U.S. team has either drubbed everyone it has faced or fallen apart and embarrassed itself.
There’s really no middle ground. The U.S. basketball team either ends up as bullies who punish opponents or spoiled babies who lack discipline when they fall short.
Most NBA franchises don’t like it when their players compete in the Olympics. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban called it the “epitome of stupidity” that teams allow players to compete in the Olympics because of the potential for injury.
David Stern, who rarely finds himself in public agreement with Cuban on any subject, is pretty much of the same opinion. He said the NBA doesn’t particularly like it when players compete, but it has never stood in the way of players who want to participate.
Stern said that many of the league’s international players are motivated to compete for their countries and that’s why the NBA has not stood in their way.
However, Stern may push for a change in the future that would turn the Olympics into a competition for players who are 23 years old or under.
That might be a decent compromise because it would allow the top young pros a chance to compete for their country while giving older veterans who aren’t really interested in playing but do so because of external pressure from advertisers and the United States Olympic Committee.
There’s really no drama when the U.S. takes the court. The only competition with the 1992 Dream Team is imaginary and the rest of the world just can’t get on the court with the best American players and hope to stay in the game for four quarters.
Choosing a team players who are 23 and under would keep older players from getting hurt and might even make the games a bit more competitive.
Do you agree with David Stern’s U-23 concept? Be heard in the comments section below…