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Did Team USA Kill EB?

Kevin at ClipperBlog had an interesting post about EB recently, and the ensuing discussion in the comments was interesting as well.  Everyone can see that Elton is not himself.  He has admitted a couple of times now that his busy summer schedule left him drained, both physically and mentally.  And Kevin makes a great point - if he's saying these things to Jim Gray and Simers, how bad must he REALLY feel?  Elton's not stupid, and he knows how to deal with the media.

I wanted to contribute my 2 cents to the discussion, particularly as regards Team USA.  And anyone who has read my blog (or its predecessor) knows that I follow Team USA pretty closely.  

I am disturbed by the Cuban-esque attitude that these assets should be locked down for the exclusive use of their employers.  I mean, sure, I get the point, it's not complicated, but this is after all a game people.  Should EB and Wade and LeBron (and Dirk and Pau and Manu and Parker) be to the point where they are playing basketball for their employer, in order to receive a paycheck, exclusively?  Is that what we want?  Michael Olowokandi played basketball like it was a job.  It's no fun watching a guy play basketball because it's their job.  (What, Olowokandi still plays basketball?  OK, update the tense on that last sentence.)

Besides, the Cuban logic is horribly flawed.  Employee's of companies take risks in their private lives all the time.  Frank Wells climbed the highest peak on 6 continents and tried to summit Everest before being forced to turn back.  He died in a helicopter crash while helicopter skiing.  Would it have been better for this Disney asset had he not been into such extreme sports?  Sure, but so what?  That's life, or in this case, death.

There's risk in lots of things.  Why should Cuban allow Dirk to play in the NBA All Star game?  It doesn't help the Mavericks, and besides, he could get hurt.

Do NBA players participate in the World Championships out of a sense of patriotism?  Well, call it what you want, but it's really another mountain to climb, just like Everest was to Frank Wells.  It's an elite competition, and that's what these guys live for.  Pau Gasol is not going to win an NBA championship with the Grizzlies any time soon, but he won a World Championship with Spain, and no one can take that away from him, even if his foot was in a cast during the medal ceremony.

The fact that the World Championships aren't appreciated in the US is a shame.  How great would it be if all the world, the US included, took these competitions as seriously as the rest of the world takes the World Cup?  I absolutely love watching the World Cup, and I like soccer about a millionth as much as I like basketball.  Oh, and do you think United fans want Wayne Rooney to sit out of the World Cup or the European Cup?  No way.  They want the best English players to represent England in the most important competitions, and they want to WIN.  Is it jingoistic, bordering on fascism?  Well, maybe.  But it makes a hell of a lot more sense to root for your country than to root for Donald T. Sterling's assets.

Furthermore, the precept that participating with Team USA is the single biggest culprit in Elton's current malaise is dubious at best.  Consider: Elton played 12 post-season games, and the Clippers were eliminated in the second round on May 22nd.  Wade played in 23 games until June 20th.  The 14 games (including exhibitions) and 5 weeks that Elton contributed to Team USA are essentially equivalent to playing in two more rounds of the playoffs, 7 games each.  Do the teams who fail to qualify for the playoffs have a decided advantage over other teams because their players are more rested?  If so, then EB is way ahead of the game, having played just 12 playoff games in his first 7 NBA seasons.  

Elton's a grown man.  He can make his own decisions.  It's not up to MDSr or Coach K or me to tell him what to do.  Clearly the cumulative effect of his Team USA commitments, his career as a movie producer, his wedding and finally his pre-season in Moscow have been to the detriment of his early season productivity.  And maybe he should have re-considered his Team USA commitment, in light of everything else he had going on in the Summer of 2006.  But to single out Team USA as THE problem is just wrong.  And for Clippers' fans to bemoan the impact on them is selfish, and maybe just a little...