Since 1992, much has been made every 4 years about USA Basketball’s “Dream Teams.” Each Olympics, the NBA’s biggest stars team up to (usually) humiliate their worldwide competition. But injuries to recent National Team players, most notably Blake Griffin twisting his knee in practice, may very well spell the end for Dream Teams.
Griffin returned to team doctors in Los Angeles to get an MRI on his injured left knee, the same knee that kept him out his first year in the league due to a stress fracture in his kneecap. The severity of the injury is yet to be determined, but for the Clippers, who just signed Griffin to a 5 year, $95 million extension, this is obviously a huge concern.
The trepidation of owners over their players participating in the Olympics and FIBA activities in the offseason has been well documented over the years. Dallas Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban recently suggested owners be paid if their players participate in the Olympics, due to the unnecessary risk it places on the owners’ investments.
It’s a valid argument. Some owners ask their players not to play for their national teams, but most players feel a duty or honor to represent their country and don’t heed their owners’ requests. But if those players get injured in the games, the owners still have to pay them.
While owners are against their players participating in the Olympics for that reason, the league has benefitted greatly from the increased international exposure it has brought them. It has allowed the NBA to expand its markets to other continents across the world.
However injuries to marketable star players such as Griffin could counteract those benefits. If he is forced to miss part of the season because of this injury, the Clippers would not only lose games, but also significant revenue.
A similar situation occurred during the 2010 FIBA World Championships. Warriors PG Stephen Curry sprained his ankle during the games and that ankle has yet to fully heal nearly two years and two surgeries later. For a player who was once the face of the Warriors franchise, the team has yet to offer him an extension due to their concern over his ankle.
That’s not to say the Olympics are not solely a risk for players though. The experience of competing in practice against the league’s best has helped in the development of some players and expanded their game. It provides a boost of confidence for them and many NBA Olympians return to have their best seasons after their experience.
But owners are too fearful that star players such as Griffin and Curry will injure themselves in the offseason and derail their careers when their was a way to prevent their participation in the first place. And this is also the reason why the 2012 Olympic Games could be the last we see of a Dream Team for a while.
At least until USA is the team being embarrassed in the Olympics and feels the need to regain their self-respect.