Faced with an unstable labor situation, USA Basketball on Tuesday announced it would replace the 12 NBA players chosen to represent the United States in the World Championships.
"We are extremely disappointed and regret that this action had to be taken, but training camp for our team starts July 8, and we simply cannot wait until July 2 for a decision before we begin the process of fielding a replacement team," said Warren Brown, executive director of USA Basketball, in New York.
The World Championships begin July 29 in Athens, Greece. The current NBA labor agreement expires July 1 and indications are that a lockout by the owners could be possible.
The 12 NBA players selected to represent the United States spoke by conference call June 11 and decided they would not commit to playing as long as a lockout seemed likely.
Options include entering the 12-man Goodwill Games team, made up of college players, or a roster of CBA players and Americans playing overseas. No roster would be final, however, until 72 hours before the tournament begins.
The 12 NBA players on the U.S. team were: Tim Duncan (San Antonio), Tim Hardaway (Miami), Vin Baker and Gary Payton (Seattle), Terrell Brandon (Milwaukee), Kevin Garnett and Tom Gugliotta (Minnesota), Grant Hill (Detroit), Allan Houston (New York), Christian Laettner (Atlanta), Glen Rice (Charlotte) and Chris Webber (Sacramento).
The lure of what might have been Michael Jordan's farewell turned the last game of the NBA finals into a ratings bonanza for NBC.
The game Sunday night, in which Chicago beat the Utah Jazz, 87-86, for the Bulls' sixth championship, earned a 22.3 rating and 38 share, making it the highest rated game in history, according to Nielsen Media Research.
Those numbers broke the record of a 21.2 rating and 37 share for Game 7 of the 1988 NBA finals between the Lakers and Detroit Pistons.
Each ratings point represents 980,000 homes. The share is the percentage watching a broadcast among those televisions in use at the time.
NBC estimates a record 72 million viewers watched all or part of the last game between Utah and Chicago, surpassing the 61.4 million who had made Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals between Indiana and Chicago the most watched NBA telecast.
NBC's six-game average was a record 18.7 rating, 4% more than the previous mark of 17.9 set in the 1993 NBA finals between Phoenix and Chicago.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Chicago fans chanting "One More Year, One More Year" at a citywide celebration of the Bulls' sixth NBA title in Grant Park heard what they wanted when Michael Jordan leaned into the microphones and said, "I just hope and pray that we can have the opportunity once again to share this type of enjoyment in the city of Chicago."
But there were other opinions.
"This was our last dance, and it was a wonderful waltz," Coach Phil Jackson said. "Thank you all."
"It's been a great run. Thank you for our last dance," Scottie Pippen said, drawing a few boos.
Boos usually are reserved for Bull chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and General Manager Jerry Krause, whom most fans blame for a possible breakup. But neither Reinsdorf nor Krause was introduced.
Afterward, assistant coach Jimmy Rodgers resigned, saying it was time to step back and evaluate his future.
Rodgers, 55, is a 27-year NBA veteran who spent the last three seasons with the Bulls.
Paul Westphal reportedly is close to returning to the NBA as coach of the Seattle SuperSonics, but the team would not confirm a hiring is imminent.
The former Phoenix Suns coach would succeed George Karl, who was fired last month after a season in which Seattle was ousted in the second round of the playoffs.
Westphal met with Gary Payton on Monday at a restaurant near the star guard's hometown of Oakland, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported.