Olympics under-23

Rest of world not really thrilled with under-23 Olympics idea


After the Olympics end the discussion of whether future games should follow the soccer model and be an under-23 event will grow louder.

But a lot has to happen to pull it off. FIBA has to buy in. The elite players have to by in (they have the ultimate power because if the elite players stay away from the World Cup it will die fast).

And the rest of the world has to buy in — you think the USA should send an under-23 team while Spain still gets to send the Gasol brothers? No. It’s all or nothing and the NBA owners want to change the rules for the rest of the world.

And the rest of the world may not be so thrilled with the idea. Certainly not the guys from Russia and Lithuania, reports Adrian Wojnarowski at Yahoo Sports.

“I would hope that the countries would be in an uproar about this,” Russia coach David Blatt told Yahoo! Sports on Tuesday “Who is one country to determine for everyone how international basketball should be played, and particularly how the Olympic Games should be managed? It’s not supposed to be like that. If it’s a global game, it’s a global game.”

“We went to the qualification in Venezuela on the first of June, and some of our players came straight after they finished (professional) seasons,” (Lithuania’s coach Kestutis) Kemzura said. “Of course (the Olympics) matters. We were fighting for this place. I don’t understand this idea of sending younger players, not sending our best to the Olympics. I do not understand it.

“If we leave everything on money, and money runs the show, where’s the sport? Where’s national team idea?”

The idea of changing the Olympic basketball tournament to an under-23 event is an NBA and American driven discussion. And like most American-driven pushes for change, it’s about money.

NBA owners — with David Stern as the front man — love the idea of changing the Olympics because they want to make more money by having a piece of the largest international tournament. Their goal is to partner with FIBA on a growing World Cup or start a new event. The owners see the Olympics as a cash cow they don’t get a taste of.

That’s not how the owners will sell it, they will say this about injuries and health concerns of the players they care so much about. However, the advanced stats and studies show the risk injury does not go up and actually guys tend to play better coming off these kinds of events. Don’t let anyone tell you differently — this is all about money. It’s always about money for the owners.

All of which is to say this is a really hard sell. Other countries will be hesitant (the NBA owners will have to share the wealth from their new event, and they don’t share money well). Star players — who see the Olympics as a proven way to grow their global brands (and you can throw in patriotism if you want) — will be hesitant. Shoe companies will be hesitant (back to the brand thing). Plus, it just feels wrong to say the best players in the world (LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant) can’t come to the Olympics.

But opposition has never stopped the NBA owners before. They will continue to make this push. Stern is just starting to learn what he is up against.

What would Team USA under-23 Olympic team look like?


David Stern wants it. Mark Cuban wants it. Most of his fellow NBA owners want it.

At his pre-finals press conference, David Stern again said he wants the Olympic basketball program to start following the soccer model — under-23. There would be one World Cup every four years with no age restrictions, but the Olympics would be for the young set. We’ll see if he can convince FIBA and other nations this is a good idea. But it poses an interesting question:

What would an under-23 Team USA look like for the London Olympics?

Gold medal good.

Matt Norlander at CBSSports.com put together a list  to get me thinking (some are 23 now but would qualify under international rules), and Ben Standig of CSNWashington.com has done one as well. I’ve tweaked those and will give you my starting five and key subs.

Team USA under-23 starting five:

Point Guard: Derrick Rose. Well, it would be Rose except his knee is blown out so…

Russell Westbrook. You can spare me you’re “he shoots to much and doesn’t pass” crap, the guy assisted 29 percent of his teammates baskets when he was on the floor this past season, and that was down from years past. The guy gets to the rack and if you take away his shot he’ll set guys up. He’s an elite athlete. How many people around the globe can cover him? Exactly.

Shooting Guard: Eric Gordon. Remember he played a surprisingly big role for Team USA at the World Championships in Turkey and could do so again in London because he can knock down shots from about Ireland. Good defender, smart team player, can play in transition or knock down jumpers. Best young two guard in the game.

Small Forward: Kevin Durant. Do I really need to explain this? The best pure scorer walking the planet right now (better than LeBron, by a whisker) and a solid team defender. A leader.

Power Forward: Kevin Love. He has a game perfectly suited for international basketball because he can rebound, is the best outlet passer in the game and can shoot from the parking lot and knock it down. He’s going to play a big role in London as it is.

Center: Anthony Davis. You want a long, agile shot blocker for the international game, one that can run the floor. Davis is all those things right now — a freak of nature. For the NBA game it will take a couple years for him to get his offense where it needs to be, but for his “defense and rebounding” role on this team, perfect fit.

Bench players: Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Stephen Curry, Bradley Beal (the guy can play and shoot), Blake Griffin,Kenneth Faried, DeMarcus Cousins.

You telling me that team isn’t winning the gold? That team might win the gold against a full slate of regular London players.