Technically, USA basketball and the NBA are separate entities making separate decisions. Yet the two are so intertwined with sharing players and David Stern’s globalization of the game efforts — not to mention Nike’s influence — that it’s hard to tell them apart.
Which had Matt Steinmetz of CSNBayArea.com suggesting that the players should use the Olympic Games as a bargaining chip at the labor talks table.
Simply put, NBA players should make it clear that if the owners cancel the 2011-12 NBA season then they will not play in next summer’s Olympic games. In theory, the NBA has little to do with the Olympics; instead that’s USA Basketball’s domain.
But the NBA and Team USA work together closely, and it’s a relationship the players are obviously aware of. Former Suns owner Jerry Colangelo is the director of USA basketball, and NBA coaches usually make up a portion of the staff.
It’s an interesting idea. It’s also not going to happen.
The reason is the players — especially the elite players making the Olympic team — are brands. Brands that sell shoes and other things that bring in international endorsement deals. Those brands need to be in the Olympics. They need that stage.
Plus, after the public relations hit the players took after a missed season, doing something that would be called unpatriotic on top of it, would be a disaster.
Bottom line, the guys calling for a hard line now — Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and the rest — would not sacrifice the Olympics and what it means to their pocket books to help the cause.
From a pure labor negotiations tactic, the players threatening the Olympics is a smart one. It’s a nice bit of leverage. But they wouldn’t cut off their nose to spite their face like that.