When I first heard that all the principles on the 2008 "Redeem Team" would be skipping this year's FIBA World Championships, we were all disappointed.
Just three years after USA Basketball finally got it's act together by building a true national team with players who wouldn't be one-year wonders, they were back to square one.
But upon reflection, I don't blame the Redeem Team for skipping the 2010 World Championships (to be played in Turkey beginning August 28th for two weeks). I'm thinking it's an opportunity for another USA Basketball makeover.
Prior to the 2006 World Championships, Team USA was reconstructed under new managing director Jerry Colangelo, requiring a three-year commitment from the players who made the team. The core of that team included young NBA stars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Dwight Howard and Chris Paul. With the exception of Paul, that core would reunite for the 2007 FIBA Americas Championship, add Kobe Bryant, Jason Kidd, Tayshaun Prince, and Michael Redd, and reunite yet again, including Paul, for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games where they brought home the gold medal.
After winning gold, we envisioned LeBron, Wade, Melo, Bosh, Howard, Paul and Williams (all much younger than Kobe and Kidd) reuniting yet again for the 2010 World Championships. But that wasn't meant to be.
After devoting three of their last four summers to Team USA, it was time for these stars to deal with new contracts, spend time with their families and get some much needed rest. And frankly, while we might find LeBron's summer of "The Decision" deplorable, I have no problem with him sitting out on Team USA. I just hope he--and Melo, Wade, etc-- don't expect to be back for the 2012 Olympics.
Because the NBA has an ample supply of even younger stars--and some quality veterans--anxious to form a new national team and, presumably, give their own three-year commitments. The tryouts to determine who will form the next national team are currently taking place in Las Vegas, and having watched NBATV's "Real Training Camp" showcasing the tryouts, I'm already getting geeked up for this team to come to fruition (and it was really fun hearing Durant use the F-word over and over again while he was mic'd up). Don't worry too much: Some combination of Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Brook Lopez, Tyreke Evans, David Lee, Kevin Love, Chauncey Billups and Lamar Odom will be able to hold its own when they show up in Turkey in late August.
So we'll be fine this year. But in the future, Team USA should hold these tryouts during the off-summer between the Olympics and the World Championships. This way, instead of getting 22-something players whittled down to 12 just one month before the World Championships, a newly formed Team USA could be spending this valuable time preparing for the championships instead. It was the rush to form the team in 2006 contributed to that team's failure to bring home the gold in that year's World Championships in Japan. But that's a whole 'nother story.
Moving forward, presuming Team USA puts together a solid 2010 squad that's able to take down the Spains and Argentinas of the international basketball world, Colangelo and Krzyzewski should reward these players with a spot on the 2011 FIBA Americas Championship team and the 2012 London Olympic Games. Maybe save two open slots for a Kobe-like veteran come 2012, but by then, this new national team should be just as formidable and experienced as its Redeem Team predecessor.
It's not fair for LeBron, Wade, Melo, etc to jump on board the 2012 Olympics gravy train whenever they feel like it. Why not put together a true team? One that's has played together for three straight summers, and ready to win the gold as one unit.
Maybe having the Redeem Team superstars bail on us won't be such a bad thing after all. Now, we can learn from our past mistakes (see 2002, 2004, 2006), and give the next national team three years to play together. If USA Basketball can revise its blueprint this way--just a few minor tweaks--we'll return to international basketball domination for years to come.