Monday, April 23, 2012
Like it or not, Mark Cuban has point on Olympics
By Jeff Caplan
So Mark Cuban railed on the Olympics once again. What else is new? For years the Mavericks' owner has ranted against the process that allows NBA players to compete for their countries in international play, including the Olympics.
Cuban believes the Olympics is a corporate, money-grubbing machine and he hates that he must release the players he and other NBA owners pay millions to play internationally -- essentially loaning NBA employees to work elsewhere for free while lining corporate pockets. If a player is injured during international competition, it's the NBA team, its fan base and the owner's pocketbook that pays the price.
Whatever your take is on the Olympics -- and I'm a fan although I'm not quite sure why winning a gold medal in basketball took on at-all-cost importance -- Cuban is justified in his consistent pulpit-pounding on the subject.
Cuban has seen the health of his own players compromised in international competition. Who knows what kind of player Rodrigue Beaubois would be today if he had not broken his foot practicing with the French national team in preparation for the 2010 World Championships? Beaubois missed the first 54 games last season and was never fully healthy when he returned. The injury required a second surgery last summer and Beaubois' development this season has been an up-and-down venture.
"I think he’s still hesitant from the injury," Cuban said Saturday before Beaubois dislocated his left ring finger only to return to put up 16 points, five assists and six rebounds against the Bulls. "But I think as he gets more aggressive and just gets a killer, aggressive mindset, then he’s unstoppable."
The problem is, Beaubois hasn't shown that type of mindset since the bone in his foot snapped in the summer of 2010.
Dirk Nowitzki blamed his subpar physical condition (by his standards) entering this season on playing in the European Olympic qualifier tournament in the offseason, an attempt to lead Germany back to the Games. He said the tourney combined with the extended lockout messed up his training regimen and led to the swelling and stiffness issues he had with his right knee.
He missed four games in January to work on strengthening the knee after getting off to his slowest start since his rookie season. All the while, Cuban was thinking his superstar wouldn't be in this predicament without the international commitment.
"I was going nuts, trust me," Cuban said. "I said, 'Are you kidding me?' But, I don't have the right to stop him [from playing]."
And that's Cuban's main beef. Other owners don't step up because they don't want to appear unpatriotic. But the facts are that NBA owners have no say in the process. Cuban gets nothing out of allowing his players to join their national teams in the offseason, be it Team USA or any other.
Yet if his player gets hurt, Cuban and his fellow owners stand to lose a whole lot.