David Stern has the right idea.
But for the Miami Heat and Dwyane Wade, it unfortunately is an idea whose time has not yet come.
Because of that, a Wade who is aging in front of our very eyes, with an annual eight-figure contract that extends out for four more seasons, has a tough decision to make this summer, one that involves love of country and love of the game.
Whether Wade makes his third Olympic appearance likely will come down to how deep a playoff run the Heat make and how run down Wade is by the time it is over.
Enter Stern, albeit too late to impact the 2012 London dynamic.
During a recent appearance on Jim Rome's television show, the NBA commissioner floated the idea of Olympic basketball moving to the Olympic soccer model, where FIFA limits the competition to those under-23, to protect the World Cup as soccer's preeminent international event.
While FIFA, soccer's ruling body, has the type of international clout that the NBA lacks, their self-interest makes sense. The World Cup is soccer's ultimate championship.
Similarly, it can be argued that the Olympics are not basketball's ultimate championship, even with the United States' quadrennial fascination.
For NBA players, an NBA title is the ultimate championship, because no one is yet calling LeBron James a champion, even though he possesses Olympic gold. Ditto for what Charles Barkley, John Stockton, Karl Malone and Patrick Ewing have and are stilled viewed as lacking.
And on the international level, the World Championships, held in even-numbered non-Olympic years, are considered the more significant competition.
By adding soccer's under-23 restriction, players such as Wade (and Heat teammates James and Chris Bosh) wouldn't feel compelled to participate (and be put under pressure by sponsors to participate).
"I think as our players get older, it would be good to relieve them of the duty each year," Stern said.
The problem is that while the United States could continue to produce top-tier rosters with such a restriction, lesser basketball powers would find an increasingly shallow player pool. Recall, among the reasons NBA "Dream Team" participation was encouraged starting in 1992 was because of how the Games had increasingly become men-against-boys competitions when the United States was limited to collegians.
Still, with so many injured 2012 finalists in the wake of the lockout-compacted season, USA Basketball already has requested a delay in the selection process, with new, likely younger, finalists potentially to be added to the pool.
For Wade, and even for Bosh, who now is pushing through abdominal issues that may yet require a surgical solution, the pressure to play from sponsors is considerable.
With an under-23 rule, that pressure would be alleviated, with older stars able to go to the Games to push product without having to push their aging bodies.
Pat Riley and the Heat made a considerable investment in Wade with this latest contract. And while that contract controls Wade's basketball decisions only during the NBA calendar, the loyalty from Micky Arison should run both ways.
Yes, the Olympics are a mere three weeks. And yes, the run-up, while involving considerable travel, need not be too demanding.
But this isn't swimming where Michael Phelps is only relevant once every four years (we're not counting those Subway commercials).
This is the NBA, where basketball's best are expected to be relevant every year, where the ultimate prize remains a ring, not a medal.
A VOTE FOR RILEY: An interesting twist in the voting for the NBA Executive of the Year award that this past week went to Indiana Pacers President Larry Bird is that Heat President Pat Riley was one of six executives to receive a first-place vote in the poll of lead personnel executives from the 30 teams. Chalk that one up to possible early voting. There was, of course, a time when Riley appeared to pull off a coup with the free-agency addition of Shane Battier and the drafting of Norris Cole. Then Cole hit a rookie wall and Battier's limitations were exposed. Fact is, with the majority of the Heat's draft picks dealt in the sign-and-trade agreements for LeBron James and Chris Bosh, and with the Heat's salary structure leaving them with, at most, the tax-payer $3 million mid-level exception to spend in free agency in upcoming offseasons, Riley essentially has to be flawless going forward to offer any support to Dwyane Wade, James and Bosh. He might not have deserved this season's first-place vote, but he's going to need to earn a few in coming seasons.
WIN-WIN: With most trades, there is the incessant need to declare a winner. What happened on draft night last year between the Pacers and San Antonio Spurs can't be described as anything but a win-win proposition. In essentially a straight-up deal (the rights to a couple of second-round picks also went to the Spurs), San Antonio sent point guard George Hill to Indiana for the rights to 2011 No. 15 pick Kawhi Leonard, the swingman out of San Diego State. Each has changed their teams' dynamic for the better, as the Heat can attest, with Hill's insertion into the Pacers' starting lineup allowing Darren Collison to operate off the bench as the dramatic change of pace. Similarly, in San Antonio, Leonard has allowed Manu Ginobili to get back to his sixth-man role. The issue for the Pacers now is whether they can keep Hill as an impending free agent. Still, the trade is among the reasons why Bird and Spurs General Manager R.C. Buford finished 1-2 in the Executive of the Year vote.
MODERN MENTORING: While much was made about LeBron James' summer school with Hakeem Olajuwon last year, Pacers center Roy Hibbert apparently was having his own moments deep in the heart of Texas. Hibbert said his workouts with San Antonio Spurs center Tim Duncan had a profound impact. "More than just basketball stuff, we sat down and talked, and I could see how he goes about his business, his calm demeanor, not too high or too low," he said. "I model myself after him."
WESTERN EXPOSURE: Who's not a big fan of the Heat? That would be Denver Nuggets coach George Karl, who said he had trouble viewing the Heat among the league's championship elite even before Chris Bosh's lower-abdominal strain and then Thursday's hideous Heat loss to the Pacers. Speaking on SiriusXM radio, Karl said the Heat benefit by playing among the league's lesser half, namely in the Eastern Conference. "I'm very prejudiced toward the West," he said. "I'll be honest with you, I think there's four or five teams in the West that can beat Miami. But that's just me. And especially if Bosh is injured, that might be five or six teams in the West (that can beat the Heat) if Bosh is hurt. And unfortunately, I think people are conceding that Miami, even without Bosh, is going to win. And I don't think that's true." Karl, of course, isn't alone after Thursday's Heat showing.