Condensed NBA season could affect Team USA in a big way
Miami had just won the NBA championship, maybe 12 hours passing after the Heat stuffed Oklahoma City into five concise, clear-cut games.
Parades were being planned, South Beach was still recovering from a rollicking night and the Big Three were given Big Credit for finally putting it all together.
Then Dwyane Wade stepped on the Olympic logo. Or maybe he slept on it.
The Heat’s All-Star shooting guard said he might not play in the London Olympics because his sore knee had bothered him for a month in a season in which fatigue was a factor for so many players.
It brought up the unthinkable question: Will Team USA be Team Too Tired when training camp begins July 6 in Las Vegas?
NBA teams rushed through 66 regular-season games in 121 days of the frantic lockout-shortened season. Others had the privilege of playoff games on consecutive days. Five finalists for Team USA’s roster played in the NBA Finals.
The 12-man USA roster will be announced July 7, and Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden might join Miami’s LeBron James and Chris Bosh, assuming nobody else claims fatigue or injury.
Wade could also be with them, but it sure looked shaky Friday. “My loyalty and my commitment to Miami Heat basketball is the No. 1 thing,” he told reporters.
Oklahoma City and Miami players won’t exactly ease into the Olympics. Team USA’s training camp runs through July 12, including an exhibition against the Dominican Republic. Then comes a four-day trip to Washington that concludes with an exhibition against Brazil.
Then the U.S. team goes to England for a few days, followed by a trip to Spain for six days, and, after exhibitions in both countries, returns to London on July 25, four days before the Olympic games begin for the U.S. against France.
It’s worth noting that James averaged 45 minutes per game in the final two rounds of Miami’s playoff run. The Heat played a brutal 89 games in 180 days.
Also worth noting: Team USA loses 12 days of rest because these Olympics start that much earlier than the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
“You’re going to have a mentally different team and a physically different team,” Team USA Coach Mike Krzyzewski acknowledged last week. “We don’t even know who the guys on the team are yet because we have to wait until we get them in Vegas to see” how they are physically, and if there are any family needs or contractual obligations. “Those three things, that I’ve learned over the last seven years, can cause a change just like that. And then you have to be prepared for it.”
Durant sounded more determined than tired after Oklahoma City was eliminated by Miami.
“I might pick up a ball and go hoop tomorrow,” he said. “My hobby is playing basketball. The Olympics is something I’ve been dreaming about since I was a kid. I just can’t wait until it starts up.”
Wade, who now owns two NBA titles, is not alone in his pain.
Derrick Rose and LaMarcus Aldridge won’t play for the U.S. in London because of knee injuries. Dwight Howard is sidelined because of back surgery and Chauncey Billups is out because of a torn Achilles’ tendon.
Flooded by all the medical reports, Team USA already received a three-week extension from the USOC to select its final 12 players.
Even with an injury-thinned and poorly rested team, the U.S. still owns a steep talent advantage over everybody in the Olympics. Perhaps fatigue won’t be a factor.
“I don’t think it’ll be a problem,” ESPN analyst Magic Johnson said. “We have to remember there’s a lot of time for them to rest their bodies because Coach K is smart enough to know he doesn’t have to push those guys as hard, Kevin Durant or LeBron James. But he can push the other guys who went out early who are going to be on the team and make sure they’re in shape because LeBron and Kevin Durant are already going to be in shape.”
The main U.S. competitors have some well-rested players.
Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka had a long playoff run, but nobody else among Spain’s nucleus (the Gasol brothers, Jose Calderon, Rudy Fernandez) has played a competitive NBA game in more than a month.
France’s Joakim Noah and Nicolas Batum haven’t played an NBA game in six weeks and two months, respectively. San Antonio’s Tony Parker and Boris Diaw advanced to the Western Conference finals but have two weeks’ more rest than Oklahoma City and Miami players. Parker, however, might be out because of an eye injury suffered in a New York nightclub this month.
James, for all his heavy minutes in taking his first NBA title and Finals MVP award, didn’t seem sleepy an hour after the final game.
“I mean, condensed schedule. ... Hey, man, I’m an NBA champion, and it don’t matter,” he said.
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