While dozens of NBA players compete for gold in London, there's seems to be another fight brewing with NBA Commissioner David Stern and the NBA owners on one side and the players on the other. This one isn't going to shut down basketball, but with the Olympics going on, the battle over whether the NBA and FIBA will put an age limit on Olympic play in favor of an NBA/FIBA run World Cup which it would appear is nothing more than a cash grab by the owners. CBS Sports' Ken Berger wrote Tuesday that the owners have the right idea, but are going about this fight the wrong way, at the wrong time. Meanwhile, Yahoo!'s Adrian Wojnarowski writes the players are in this fight alone because NBPA Billy Hunter is MIA in this fight because he's been busy with an investigation of the Union's business practices.
The owners have a right to be concerned that a third party is making millions of dollars off of these players and the owners aren't seeing a dime from it. However, if this is going to become a fight that gets played out in the media perhaps the NBA and FIBA should look at different options. What if a third exhibition tournament was created? Barring a Spain victory in London, it's pretty clear that a team of the best American basketball players can beat any individual country. But could they beat a group of the world's best?
Imagine Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Deron Williams, Kobe Bryant, Andre Iguadola, Dwayne Wade, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, Tyson Chandler and Kevin Love playing an international team of Tony Parker, Ricky Rubio, Steve Nash, Manu Ginobili, Nicolas Batum, Luol Deng, Serge Ibaka, Andrei Kirilenko, Dirk Nowitzki, Marc and Pau Gasol and Luis Scola (or Anderson Varejao, or Joakim Noah, or Nene). Wouldn't that pique your interest once every two of four years?
Let's say this tournament is done every two years. You could use the PGA's Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup format and alternate the host city between an American city and an international city. The format? Best two out of three format taking place over a four or five day format. Call it the Stern Cup if you'd like. Why wouldn't this work? It'd be controlled by the NBA. Players would be asked to take two or three weeks out of the their summers for practice sessions and the games themselves so it's not the five or six week commitment like the Olympics or FIBA World Championships.
Offering the players a 50-50 split from the proceeds offers incentive to get them to participate and the NBA gets to take advantage of end of July/beginning of August sports slow down. Maybe this doesn't happen because another international competition would seem a bit silly, but this would also be unique compared to the other two tournaments. I'm sure this won't be an option, but it'd be nice to see the NBA owners and players find a creative, positive solution to an issue instead of another publicized back and forth that hurts the image of the game.
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