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Jerry Colangelo says culture, money, FIBA changes all contributed to dropouts ahead of 2019 World Cup

Jerry Colangelo, Team USA, World Cup

Team USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo has had to face the elephant in the room several times throughout the course of the past few weeks. Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and other staples of the program are not walking through that door, neither are James Harden, Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard or other premier talents in the league.

So what has caused this recent onslaught of player disinterest?

“What’s caused it? Well, I have to be realistic about things. It’s a little bit different culture than it was 12 years ago, 14 years ago. And that’s just life. That’s just reality,” Colangelo told Michael Lee of The Athletic. “The money is three times what it was back then. Agents are even more powerful, in terms of control. I’m not sure, because of the big investment teams have in their players, their stars, they’re a little hesitant. They may say they’re supporting, but look, I’m a big boy, I understand what’s going on, so that’s just a fact of life. We have to adjust.”

Colangelo admitted it’s not only the NBA that has made some of the biggest stars shy away from appearing in international competition, as FIBA also deserves its share of blame.

“The format played a role. FIBA going back to this back-to-back, (20)19 and ‘20, with two NBA seasons in between, is a killer,” he said. “If you’re sitting in an NBA office, owner of a team or whatever, I tell you, ‘I don’t know, I’ve got $150 million invested in this guy. If he wants to go, we’ll work it out but I’m not going to encourage him.’ FIBA changing the formula created a whole ‘nother level of stuff… I’m a believer, I was at the time, I still am, that the new format benefitted everyone else in the world, not us. We’re the only ones really hurt by that. Because we have an NBA season.”

Colangelo is only half right in this one, as it did hinder NBA players’ willingness to go through this process in an era of rest and load management, but players who play in the EuroLeague have also been dealt a blow by this decision from FIBA. Recently players as notable as Spain’s Sergio Llull said FIBA made an irrational change, forcing the qualifying process to happen between players’ seasons and keeping the best players from competing.