LONDON 2012: Olympics may be caught in fall-out from NBA player lockout
NBA commissioner David Stern predicted a ‘nuclear winter’ this week as the league’s owners and players headed to court to resolve their labour negotiations – and the fear for Olympics organisers is that next summer may also be caught in the blast.
WAIT GOES ON: While the NBA player lockout prevent Ben Gordon for finally making his Great Britain debut at next year's London 2012 Olympics (British Basketball)
Basketball was tipped to be a hot ticket at London 2012 but, with the chances of a cancelled NBA season sky-rocketing after the players rejected the owners’ latest offer on Monday, concerns over player insurance could keep some of sport’s biggest stars on the sidelines.
Typically, an agreement between FIBA and the NBA has limited the cost of insuring players' contracts in case they are injured playing for their national teams. But the current NBA lockout makes that agreement invalid, forcing federations to foot the full insurance bill. For many, that financial burden will be too much to take on.
For Team GB, this is a familiar story. In the early stages of the lockout, they secured sufficient coverage for Chicago Bulls forward Luol Deng to play in the Olympic test tournament and European Championships this year – but only after lengthy discussions.
For London 2012, British Basketball or the British Olympic Association would have to consider insurance for both Deng and Detroit Pistons guard Ben Gordon, who is still waiting to make his national team debut.
Of course, the US national team would feel the pinch more than most. If insurance issues emerge, global stars like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard and Kevin Durant may not be on the plane to London, no doubt leaving many ticketholders fuming.
US head coach Mike Krzyzewski has already raised that possibility. Krzyzewski, who led the Americans to gold in Beijing in 2008, explained: “If there is no season, I’m sure the players would want to play, but who funds their injury insurance?” He also discussed concerns over players being out of game condition due to the lockout.
Should the lockout be dramatically turned on its head, opening the door for a shortened season that extends further into June than usual, there would be the additional headache of some players turning up in London exhausted, just four weeks after the NBA Finals.
With Deng and the Bulls likely to be among the championship contenders, this possibility will have crossed the mind of Team GB head coach Chris Finch.
But, for now, the bleak ‘nuclear winter’ is the hot topic of discussion in NBA circles. The next month will confirm whether London 2012 will share in the pain.
© Sportsbeat 2011