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Olympics and the NBA

Tis the season to be melancholy, at least according to those who warn against "losing" star NBA players to international duty.

Don't believe the hype.

Team USA open the summer with a warm-up on July 25 against Canada, five days after the Bucks conclude their Summer League schedule. The stars and stripes start Group B Olympic play on August 10 versus China.

Fans, along with some of the media and and team management, view the tournaments rather differently. Summer League games are often celebrated as a wonderful opportunity to gauge fresh, relatively unknown talent. International competitions on the other hand are looked at, by some, as little more than a way to drain a star player's energy for the following NBA season, or worse yet, provide risk of major injury.

I'll concede that when thinking from a club (Bucks) perspective, it's only natural to have different outlooks when you're weighing the impacts of Joe Alexander versus Michael Redd or Luc Richard Mbah a Moute versus Andrew Bogut. As beloved as the rooks are, they aren't nearly as important to the team as Redd and Bogut. Thus, the conventional wisdom is that summer basketball is good for the youngin's, not so much for the seasoned stars.

In the weeks preceding, during, and quite probably after the Olympics, this will be reinforced by some who whisper and still others who scream about the dangers of playing competitively outside the NBA. At best, you'll hear anecdotal evidence.

While there is an inherent risk in any physical activity, there isn't a lot to worry about based on recent Team USA player's performances the NBA season following international duty.

Before the FIBA's last summer, I researched how the Team USA members performed in the NBA following the World Championships in 2006. The nearly consensus answer was that they played very well.

To further calm the fears, the following is a recap of how Team USA's 2007 FIBA Americas roster fared in the NBA last season:

Chauncey Billups: The 31 year-old played in 78 regular season games and shot a career-high .448 from the field and .918 from the line.

Jason Kidd: At 35, the oldest Team USA player appeared in exactly 80 regular games for the third straight season.

LeBron James: He averaged 30.0 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 7.2 assists in 75 regular season games and then 28.2 points in 13 more playoff games.

Deron Williams: Williams played in all 82 games for the Jazz, and had his finest season yet, averaging 18.8 points and 10.5 assists while shooting .507 from the field.

Michael Redd: With soaring fan expectations, he didn't thrill, but still, the guy demanded a double-double watch early on, finished 11th in the first Blogger MVP rankings, and concluded the year with averages of 22.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, and a career-high 3.4 assists.

Tayshaun Prince: He played in every game for the fifth straight season, also playing deep into the postseason, as required in Motown. He averaged 13.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 3.3 assists.

Kobe Bryant: Kobe also played every regular season game, then added 21 more to the 82 in the playoffs. Rumor has it that some non-blogging media types voted him MVP.

Dwight Howard: Yet another Team USA player who managed to play all 82 games, Howard exploded with career-highs in points (20.7), rebounds (10.8), and blocks (2.1).

Amare Stoudemire: Another All-Star game for the Suns star, who played 79 games and finished fifth in the NBA with 25.2 points per game.

Mike Miller: Miller appeared in 70 games and averaged 16.4 points, a career-high 6.6 rebounds, and shot .432 from three-point land.

Tyson Chandler: In helping lead the Hornets to the best record in the West, Chandler had his best season as a pro. Averaged 11.8 points points and rebounds in 79 regular season games.

Carmelo Anthony: Anthony played in 77 games for the Nuggets, finishing fourth in the NBA with 25.7 points per game.

In summary:

  • No Team USA player suffered a major injury or missed significant time after playing in the FIBA Americas tournament last summer. Miller 's 70 games played (85.3 % of possible games) were the least of any player.
  • A third (four of 12) of the players appeared in all 82 regular season games for their respective teams.
  • On average, they appeared in 78.16 games out of 82, or about 95.3 %.
  • No player had a substantial drop in production from the previous season.
  • 15 of the 24 (62.5 %) players on the last two Team USA's appeared in at least 75 games in the NBA season following their international competition.

The verdict? Don't fret about Michael Redd, Andrew Bogut, and possibly Luc Richard Mbah a Moute playing in the Olympics. Instead, enjoy what should be a highly entertaining tournament.

This is only a small look at a larger picture, and there are no guarantees. Anything can happen, sure. Who knows, maybe Beijing will come up Gold-Silver-Bronze for the Bucks' trio.