Aug 13 2012 3:39PM

Golden Opportunities


Recent history shows us that Olympic gold indeed paves the way for immediate success at the NBA Playoffs.
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The value of gold just went up in many NBA markets when these 12 USA Basketball players won the 2012 Olympics Men's Basketball Tournament Sunday.

At least, that's what recent history is telling us.

Last time Kobe Bryant got gold and Pau Gasol got silver at the 2008 Olympics, the Lakers' dynamic duo parlayed those medal-winning experiences into back-to-back NBA championships in the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons.

Fellow Olympian gold-medalist Dwight Howard enjoyed similar success, leading his Orlando Magic to the 2009 NBA Finals. USA teammates LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony took their respective teams--the Cavs and Nuggets--to the conference finals.

Yes, every 2009 NBA Final Four team had a USA gold-medal representative.

That's how much Olympic gold is worth in the NBA. It carries immediate value that translates at playoff time.

Who knows? This 2012 gold may pay off once again for these 12 USA Olympians who all had a great experience.


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LeBron James: The LeBron James Era may be underway. We'll officially know years from now if LeBron's 2012 NBA championship ring with the Miami Heat and Olympics gold medal with the USA Basketball squad ushered in a new NBA dynasty. If LeBron wins a couple more rings, we'll all give the King his era. After all, you've got to be an MVP who wins 3-plus NBA championships to even think about putting your name up there with Mikan, Russell, Kareem, Magic, Bird, Jordan, Shaq, Duncan and Kobe. With LeBron winning like a king at age 27 and surrounded by his Miami teammates, LeBron is allowed to imagine his era is here.


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Kobe Bryant: While King James has taken over the Jordan role of Dream Team 11 (just kidding all you one-and-only Dream Team fans), Kobe is rolling into his Magic-and-Bird years as a fine ambassador for the game. Every butt-tap and head-hug he gives to overly-physical international opponents just shows how much the 33-year-old loves playing this elder-statesman role nowadays. And now that Kobe is going back to a new-and-improved Lakers championship-contending team that just added Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, he is now ready for a role where he doesn't have to take 23 shots a game like he did in 2011-12 (he only took 9 per game in the 2012 Olympics). Throw in the added dimension that his Lakers' teammate Pau Gasol once again led Spain to a silver-medal Olympics finish, and the Lakers' extreme makeover is now in full effect. Swagger has returned to Los Angeles.


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Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden: An Olympics gold medal was the perfect medication for post-Finals depression. Now the Thunder trio--along with Spain's Serge Ibaka, who picked up the silver--has established itself as the greatest 23-and-under NBA team, probably in the history of basketball. Let's just hope Oklahoma City GM Sam Presti can make the right financial movements to keep this quartet together for years to come because what they earned in London is priceless. Only the Spurs--another team that benefited greatly from this experience, placing six players in the Olympics Tournament--gained as much (No. 1 Olympic scorer Patty Mills, No. 3 Olympic scorer Manu Ginobili, No. 10 Olympic scorer Tony Parker, Boris Diaw, Nando De Colo and Tiago Splitter).


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Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler: You could make a case that Anthony was USA Basketball's most valuable offensive performer (130 points in 143 minutes!), while Chandler was the team's most valuable defender. Now if they can take this same game back to the Knicks--kind of like how Melo took his 2008 Olympics experience back to the 2009 Western Conference finalist Denver Nuggets--then New York can enter a better state of mind.


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Chris Paul: Too bad CP3 couldn't share the experience with his injured buddy Blake Griffin. Nonetheless, Paul was allowed to play a new role with this stacked team that could come in handy when he rejoins his L.A. Clipper teammates this fall. After all, the Clips have upgraded at many positions, bringing in Lamar Odom, Grant Hill and Jamal Crawford to play behind Griffin, Caron Butler, Chauncey Billups and DeAndre Jordan. With so many weapons at his disposal, Paul can become more of a playmaker than a scorer this season. Just like his Olympics experience.


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Deron Williams: Williams needed to win again. The Nets had gone 25-42 in games that Williams played, so guess how good it must have felt for the Brooklyn point guard to go 8-0 in the Olympics. The experience was even sweeter for the new face of Brooklyn Basketball, when you consider it all took place weeks after he signed a 5-year, $100 million contract, knowing he'd be playing alongside Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace and Brook Lopez for years to come. p>
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Kevin Love: Love entered his Olympics experience sounding like a crybaby, whining that it was Minnesota management's fault that he hadn't played in a playoff game yet. Now after that same management signed Andrei Kirilenko and Alexey Shved--the players that led Russia to a bronze medal--Love now realizes his team is in great position to make the playoffs on their own. Just gotta bust their butt for it like everyone else.


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Andre Iguodala: The trade that essentially sent Iguodala to Denver and landed Andrew Bynum in Philly was in the background of the defensive stopper's Olympics experience. But now with the medal in hand, the former Philly All-Star joins the Nuggets bringing his own gold to the mountain. And we already know, that carries more weight than you can imagine. Expect 'Dala to join no-nonsense Andre Miller as a key veteran leader, and Iguodala's vocal ways--he's a tremendous talker on defense--will likely put the D back in Denver.


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Anthony Davis: Nobody played less on USA's squad, but nobody learned more than Davis, who had a stellar performance in limited playing time as the team's 12th man. The 6-10, 220-pound teenager finished the Olympics with 26 points, 19 rebounds and 3 blocks in 52 minutes, while shooting 65 percent. Translate those numbers against Olympians to a 36-minute game and you get 17.9 points, 13.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks. The New Orleans Hornets would be more than happy with those 2012-13 rookie numbers for their 19-year-old franchise power forward.