You’re watching the NBA Finals, sure, but were you aware of how significant of a preview it may be for the upcoming summer Olympics?
Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Dwyane Wade and James Harden. Chris Bosh and Russell Westbrook. Each of them are entering the NBA Finals with more on their mind than the Larry O’Brien trophy. This summer, they hope to make the roster of the Olympics and defend the USA Basketball Gold Medal that they earned in Beijing in 2008.
“A third of our player pool is in the finals, six of them,” says Colangelo. “So I’m watching it very closely and my party line is, I wish them all well and good health.” His sentiments were in fair spirits. As the Director of Men’s Basketball in the upcoming Olympic Games in London, he has seen far too many of his players already plagued with injury, including big names like Dwight Howard, Derrick Rose, LaMarcus Aldrige and Chauncey Billups.
With Derrick Rose out for the foreseeable future, his value may need to be replaced under the potential of Russell Westbrook. With the injuries to key post-players, Chris Bosh’s role may be increased come summer time. On the flip side to that, however, that may not be in Bosh’s best interest.
In Game 1 of the second round series against the Indiana Pacers Bosh suffered an abdominal strain and missed the following nine games, including most of the Eastern Conference Finals. Now that he’s in the NBA Finals, he has come off of the bench and received increased minutes. To come directly off of that into the London Olympics may be a physical burden for the healing athlete. If he does not make the squad, he could lose his Olympics playing time to Blake Griffin, Tyson Chandler or even Anthony Davis.
Bosh, of course, will not be the only recovering star currently playing in the NBA Finals and hoping to continue onwards into the Olympics.
Dwyane Wade faced injury trouble all season long, and was forced to miss seventeen games of the already punctuated season. Wade has worked especially hard in the NBA Playoffs as it was, and played 51 minutes in on game against the Celtics. While Olympics training camp is expected to begin in Las Vegas on July 5th, there is a strong chance that the NBA Finals carry over until the end of June.
If Wade choses to rest this summer rather than play in the 2012 Olympics, it would likely be NBA Finals opponent James Harden that would take his spot on the roster.
The physical burden on Wade is comparable to what superstars LeBron James and Kevin Durant will be facing if they continue to play throughout the summer. James played 45.9 MPG against the Celtics, and played all 48 minutes in Game 7. The two best players at their position, arguably two best players in the world, face off in the NBA Finals to see which of the two will win their first league title. The strenuous efforts that they will face along the road to the title will be telling and indicative of the way that they will be in the Olympics, as will there style of play.
After the series is over, they will be playing alongside each other for the glory of their country and an Olympics Gold Medal.
As Adam Friedgood pointed out in this Bleacher Report article, “If the Heat had not made it to the Finals, James would have used the Olympics to prove he's still the greatest basketball player in the world today.”
But there’s still more to the issue.
According to NBC Olympics, the five likely members of the Olympics Team (Durant, James, Westbrook, Bosh, Wade) combined for 122 points, 34 rebounds, 27 assists and a 82.35 FT%.
To get to the NBA Finals, Durant also had to defeat international superstar’s Dirk Nowitzki of Germany (last year’s NBA Finals MVP), Tony Parker of France, Manu Ginobili of Argentina and Pau Gasol of Spain.
Russell Westbrook, who may be the X-factor in both the NBA Finals and the 2012 London Olympics, has yet to prove what his ultimate potential may be but has given fans every reason to believe that he will not disappoint.
Regardless of your rooting interest, the upcoming Olympics and current NBA Finals will be a fascinating ride for all involved. The series will indicate the more elusive scorers, the chemistry of the floor and how the players gel together, what kind of relationship the best player's have on the floor, and who has the drive to want it more.
Bryan is always interested in new opportunities and can be reached on Twitter. Click here to Follow @BryanKalbrosky.