Written by Tim Hoffman Wednesday, 21 January 2009 16:38
In this day and age, franchise loyalty is often considered a thing of the past. But nowhere is that more apparent than with Team USA, the gold medal winning franchise, whose player exodus in the offseason saw every one of their stars go to new teams. Residents of the United States felt betrayed by the play for money by their free agents.
"It just doesn't feel right," said Wilbur Reynolds. "We win a championship with this great nucleus of players like Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Dwight Howard, and then they all up and leave for the big dollars. We were just getting to know these kids and watch them gel into something great, and then it's time to start building a team again."
It's hard for a small market team like the United States to keep talented players once they prove themselves on the court. Chris Paul played exceptionally well over the summer, only to sign with the New Orleans Hornets when the season began. The same for Howard in Orlando and Kobe in Los Angeles, the allure of playing for actual money and more than once every 4 years just proves too much for the fledgling USA franchise's hopes of keeping players.
"I enjoyed my time with Team USA, I really did," said Paul. "We had some fun, it was good being in a small market when I was getting my name out there. But they just can't pay the big bucks to resign players. Everyone knows what their owners, the United States Government, is going through right now. They might go out of business soon with this economy the way it is. I had to make to move to something stable."
And so the smalltown Team USA franchise and its fans will soldier on. Knowing that once every four years they will put together a damn good team, only to see it get dismantled the following season, much like the Florida Marlins. They will be stuck with outdated jerseys and broken dreams, but despite the hard feelings they have hope for those who move on from the team.
"It's a special feeling watching them play now," said Hank Gustaphson. "I can tell my kids that I watched Dwyane Wade back when he played for us, back before he was a real superstar. That's a nice thing to be able to say. But as good as it feels, with how many people we lost to free agency, Team USA is really going to suck this year. I predict no Olympic medals..."