Okay, we admit this is a crazy long shot. So does Chris Tomasson of Fanhouse, who is in Istanbul and may have been in a hookah bar for all we know when he came up with it. But hear us out:
It is possible for USA Basketball not to qualify for the 2012 Olympics in London if they don’t win the FIBA World Championships, starting Saturday.
Only the winner of this World Championships gets an automatic qualifying berth in the 2012 games. It is possible the USA does not win this tournament — they have the most talent but this is a young team on a big stage in a one-and-done tournament (after the group play stage). Spain and Greece both sandbagged games against the USA in tune-ups. There’s a good chance the USA wins and qualifies, but it may not. Spain is the favorite of a lot of smart basketball people
If no gold for the USA in Turkey, it just has to be one of the top two teams in the FIBA Americas Tournament next summer to qualify (this is the same way the USA qualified for the 2008 Olympics). All the teams in North and South America competing for the Olympics spots. No problem for us, right?
Wrong, if there is a lockout. And there almost certainly will be a lockout.
Part of the deal of a lockout would be that no player under contract could take part in international competitions. While free agents could play, if you think Carmelo Anthony or anybody else who might not be under contract next summer is going to risk injury while trying to convince teams to give them millions, you must be in a hookah bar yourself.
So we will stock Team USA with college kids. And then send them up against some potentially good teams like Argentina and Brazil. Our plucky college kids likely would till finish in the top two. Maybe. But some other countries would have their players from Europe back, so one could dream of a scenario where the USA finishes behind a couple teams and does not make the finals.
Now, if Team USA finishes in the top four or five — and it’s nearly impossible to picture them finishing lower than that — they get invited to the pre-Olympics tournament in London. They had one of these in Beijing (the USA was not part, having already qualified), where a couple Olympics spots were left open for teams to play their way in right before the games.
For that, you’d expect we’d have our NBA players back and the Kobe/Wade/LeBron/Durant posse would just destroy everyone in their path and qualify. So we’d be in, and be favorites.
But it would be a whole lot simpler if the USA would just win the World Championships.