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Old 08-23-2008, 01:31 AM   #1
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Default Olympic glory too high a cost for NBA

Olympic glory too high a cost for NBA

BEIJING – As the worst nightmare for an NBA dynasty unfolded on the floor – San Antonio Spur Manu Ginobili crumbling with the agony of an ankle hurt all over again – the world witnessed one more window into how an Olympic basketball war of attrition threatens to deepen the gap between the United States and its reeling rivals.

So yes, the Americans beat Argentina 101-81 to reach the championship game against Spain on Sunday. The gold medal is 40 inevitable minutes away. Yet peel back the restoration of the U.S.’s good name, the sparkle of Kobe and LeBron, the selling of the swoosh, and allow everyone to balance these spastic glory days with the dark side of Olympic basketball:

For its image makeovers and marketing might, the NBA is slowly, surely decaying multi-million dollar assets.

The excess of talent for the United States has largely insulated the red, white and blue because America’s staggering roster of talent isn’t as burdened with pressures to play hurt, to log minute after draining minute on the court. The U.S. team can share the load, the way its smaller opponents never can. Just understand: Hundreds of millions of dollars in guaranteed NBA contracts have played hurt here in these Olympics and the long-term price to pay could be staggering.

One more bad turn of that ankle, the Spurs privately feared, and Ginobili could need surgery. Argentina fought back with such toughness and tenacity after Ginobili was lost just four minutes into the game, but the 2004 gold medalists were dramatically diminished without him. His Argentine teammates would walk into the halftime locker room, and there was a loyal son of Argentina, one of the game’s greatest winners in absolute agony.

“He was pretty bad,” Argentina’s Carlos Delfino told Yahoo! Sports, shaking his head. “He was in pain. …He was in pain.”

Ginobili was on his way to a hospital for a dreaded MRI late Friday here, and the real possibility that his jammed ankle from the Western Conference playoffs – with swelling that never subsided – could cost the Spurs a chance for a fifth NBA title in 11 years. Ginobili is 32 years old and Spurs management had understood that a decade with his national team has come at a cost for them. To watch him turn that ankle, hobble to the sideline and collapse just broke your heart. Ginobili would do anything for that Argentina jersey on his back – and did.
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