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Thursday, May 31, 2012
Mark Cuban 'thrilled' Stern looking at Olympics

By Jeff Caplan

Mark Cuban's repeated criticism of the NBA for allowing its stars to play in the Olympics is no longer falling on deaf ears in the commissioner's office.

David Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver said Wednesday that they are no longer sure they want to see NBA veterans playing in the Olympics beyond this summer's Games in London and will look into a 23-and-younger age limit, as soccer does.

The news came as a welcome surprise to Cuban, who touted a 22-and-younger age limit as recently as April.

"Yes, I'm thrilled," Cuban told ESPNDallas.com on Wednesday night.

The most outspoken of the league's owners regarding the NBA's participation in the Olympics and all international competition during the NBA's offseason, Cuban said in April that he believed the topic of NBA players' availability was a dead issue, saying, "The commissioner's office won't open it up to discussion. They'll take calls about it but won't put it up for a vote. Hopefully, I can get him to move it to a vote at some point."

Silver made it clear Wednesday that Cuban's voice is resonating.

"And there's a recognition, certainly Mark Cuban, other owners have raised repeatedly the issue of our players playing in essence year-round when you add the Olympics to our newly renamed world championship of basketball to our World Cup of Basketball," Silver said. "So when you have the Olympics, the World Cup of Basketball, we are taking a very close look at whether it makes sense from an NBA standpoint and a global basketball standpoint for the top players to be playing at that level on a year-round basis, and somewhere (every) summer.

"So what we have told FIBA and what David has announced several times is that we are all in through the London Olympics, and then post-London Olympics we want to step back together with USA Basketball, led by Jerry Colangelo and Patrick Baumann in FIBA ... we need to take a long-term view of what makes sense both for the NBA and for the game."

Cuban detests that he and the other NBA owners must relinquish handsomely paid players to their national teams without any recourse if a player is injured during international competition. He has also argued that players and their teams should reap some financial gain, as well as railing against what he deems the corporate greed of FIBA, basketball's world governing body, the United States Olympic Committee and the International Olympic Committee.

"I think it's the biggest mistake the NBA makes," Cuban said in April of allowing NBA stars to compete in international competition. "If you look up stupid in the dictionary you see a picture of the USA Dream Team playing for free for corporate America so the U.S. Olympic Committee can make billions of dollars. So if you come up with something that you own that you can give to me for free so I can make billions of dollars, I want it."

Wednesday's announcement suggests Stern is growing increasingly wary of the toll year-round competition takes on the players' physical health as well as the quality and integrity of the NBA season. Stern and Silver said they still want NBA veterans to be eligible for the world championships staged every four years.

Cuban disagrees unless, he said Wednesday, fundamental changes are made to the structure of the world championship.

"(I'd be) more thrilled if the NBA starts its own world championship," Cuban said. "This way the revenues from the tourney could be shared with players. When the revenues go to FIBA, they get next to nothing. The teams get absolutely nothing."

One step at a time.