High-ranking officials at USA Basketball are considering a push to exclude National Basketball Association players from the Olympics following the fiasco surrounding the World Championships, said Russ Granik, the organization's president.
USA Basketball is using a collection of journeymen and college players on its World Championship team because of fears that NBA players would boycott the tournament in protest of the league's lockout."Certainly there are people within USA Basketball - and I don't blame them - who are saying this demonstrates that we shouldn't have NBA players participating," Granik told Bloomberg News. "The subject has been raised."
Players union Executive Director Billy Hunter couldn't be reached to comment.
Some of the officials are members of USA Basketball's executive committee, although Granik, also deputy commissioner of the NBA, wouldn't name them.
A ban would mean the end of the Dream Teams that participated in the past two Olympics, easily winning the gold medals.
USA Basketball originally selected a team of NBA stars to participate in the 16-team tournament, scheduled for July 29 through Aug. 9 in Athens.
The players subsequently were removed from the roster after refusing to confirm their participation until July 2, a day after the league imposed a lockout and ignited a labor war with its union.
So instead of a 12-man roster that would have included such players as NBA Rookie of the Year Tim Duncan, and All-Stars Grant Hill and Gary Payton, the U.S. team will be comprised of lesser-known, less-talented players, many of whom play in the Continental Basketball Association or in Europe.
Fearing what a weakened team would mean to its marketing efforts, USA Basketball - which controls the rights to televise the tournament - won't allow either NBC or Turner Sports to broadcast their games.
Such NBA stars as New York's Patrick Ewing, president of the players association, and Chicago's Michael Jordan, encouraged their fellow NBA players to boycott the tournament, sending a message of solidarity to league leaders.
The rancor associated with the World Championships has prompted even Granik - the driving force behind the NBA's inclusion in the Olympics - to question whether the league's players should be allowed to participate.
"What's happened in the last month has shaken my conviction that it makes sense to have the best players play," Granik said. "Part of USA Basketball's reaction has been that these guys shouldn't play in the Olympics. They may be right."
NBA players first appeared in the Olympics in 1992 in Barcelona, Spain. The original Dream Team had such all-time greats as Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Jordan.
In 1994, the league's stars appeared in the World Championships in Toronto. Although the U.S. won the tournament, it was disgraced when Shawn Kemp grabbed his crotch while dunking during a game. The 1996 Olympic team won the gold medal in Atlanta.
Unlike 1994, though, USA Basketball said it had selected this year's World Championship team based on character and talent. With the NBA players refusing to honor their contracts with USA Basketball, Granik said there may be need for a change.
"We can't necessarily go merrily along anymore, just assuming that we were on the best track," he said.