Ever been anxious to see the San Antonio Spurs against CSKA Moscow, when they are really playing hard?
Allegedly, that could be on the way.
In a footnote to the minutes of its latest meeting, basketball's international governing body, Fiba, announced plans to create an official World Club Championship, starting next year. It will, so it claims, feature "eight of the very best clubs in the world", including two from Europe and two from the Americas. ...
With the sport ever more global, and the infallibility of America's best long since proven by the failure of Team USA to win the most recent Olympic or world championship golds, introducing an event which pits the leading sides from every part of the globe is long overdue. The tricky part is this: can you guarantee that the NBA champions will take part? And since it will be held in October, how can you stop them from using it as a glorified training exercise for the season ahead?
Those are issues which will vex both Fiba and Stern. Even His Omnipotence cannot impose his will on where his own teams prepare - hence why the Chicago Bulls were happy to rebuff a jaunt to London this autumn on the grounds they didn't wish to change their existing arrangements. And why feedback from the head coaches has killed off the idea of holding training camps overseas for the foreseeable future.
However, if a world club challenge is to truly succeed, it will need to incorporate the NBA's best - every time. It can't be used to give the scrubs a run-out ahead of the final roster cuts. And the players themselves need to push themselves in the same manner they would in the Finals, with genuine glory on the line.
Of course, what we don't know at this stage is whether or not NBA teams will participate at all. But if they do, it would certainly create an event that I would like to see. My only concern is about the schedule. We already live in a world where smart teams don't play their best players long minutes all season long. It's too much of a grind. Adding one more event to an increasingly crowded schedule -- now that top stars have to take the national team seriously nearly every summer.
My thought would be: if you want players to play their guys out for this, what are you going to take off the schedule?
And, actually, here's one crazy idea: send two teams that just missed the playoffs, and tell them that the winning team gets extra balls in the draft lottery. At least you'd catch a team at a time when they are both ready to compete, and not freaked out about injuries.