Features

NBA's summer of fright

National

Issue: "As the West burns," Sept. 6, 2003

Most NBA fans care little for the Olympic qualifying basketball tournaments that have been played this summer. Don't count Mark Cuban as one of them. The Dallas Mavericks owner must have felt it keenly when he heard news of Mavericks superstar forward Dirk Nowitzki rolling his ankle during the Olympic qualifying tournaments. The German star sprained the ankle while competing with his native German team. The sprain isn't bad, but the fright of losing a player during extraneous competition is for league owners.

"International competition is for profit, it's big business," Mr. Cuban told the Fort Worth Star Telegram last week. "Why we as a league offer up our most valuable guys is beyond me. It's the equivalent of Microsoft paying Bill Gates to do promotions for and to sell Linux software."

Mr. Cuban had another summer fright when Mavericks key reserve and Mexican national Eduardo Najera hurt his shoulder and calf during a fight with team Canada. Dallas point guard Steve Nash plays for the Canadian team, but wasn't involved in the fight. Last year, Mr. Cuban withheld Mr. Nowitzki from international competition until the German team purchased enough insurance to stem Mr. Cuban's apprehension. Over the past two summers, the German national team has spent over $400,000 on insurance for the forward.

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