Quick Take: Will stars return to world stage for U.S.?

By Ira Winderman
|  Tuesday, Dec 15, 2009  |  Updated 6:45 PM EDT
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Based on its pool in next summer's World Championships, the United States should have no problem advancing to the knockout round.

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It's not about the draw, or at least not about Tuesday's draw.

Based on its pool in next summer's World Championships, the United States should have no problem advancing to the knockout round.

In fact, Tuesday had nothing to do with the United States, but rather the opponents who avoided drawing into the United States bracket that also includes Iran, Croatia, Brazil, Tunisia and Slovenia.

What matters next, and matters most, is the draw of the event for the NBA's elite.

Carmelo Anthony already has said he is in. So has Kobe Bryant. But others, especially those involved in 2010 free agency, haven’t been as definitive.

With the tournament in Turkey running from Aug. 28 through Sept. 12, everything should be in place when it comes NBA personnel matters. But the World Championships are not the World Cup when it comes to the American perspective. And that's what will make the approach of the 2008 Olympians intriguing.

Only the winner in Turkey is guaranteed a 2012 London Olympic berth. For everyone else, it is back to regional qualifying in 2011, where the berths are more plentiful and the competition less challenging.

So does a LeBron James or Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh sign up for the World Championships knowing that a single loss after the initial bracket round means year-round basketball in both 2011 and 2012, as well as this coming summer?

Or do they enjoy an offseason as spectators, handle their free agency, and then work a lot closer to home in 2011 FIBA Americas qualifying?

There is not a team in Turkey that any U.S. compilation won't be an overwhelming favorite against. But there also hardly is enduring glory from winning the Worlds, an event that carries more significance than the Olympics in almost every other country.

On Tuesday, the United States drew Iran (which could have Grizzlies center Hamed Haddadi), Croatia (Bucks point guard Roko Ukic), Brazil (Suns guard Leandro Barbosa, Cavaliers forward Anderson Varejao, Nuggets center Nene), Slovenia (Lakers guard Sasha Vujacic, Kings guard Beno Udrih, Suns guard Goran Dragic, 76ers center Primoz Brezec and Raptors center Rasho Nesterovic) and Tunisia.

Now the recruiting begins, with the hopes that getting an itinerary of two weeks in Istanbul is sufficiently tempting.

 

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

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