The 2011 Pan American Games will take place in October, but instead of college players as usual, this years's USA men's basketball roster will be made up of players with NBA D-League experience instead of top NCAA players as has been the case in past competitions.
The NBA Development League will send Tulsa 66ers head coach Nate Tibbetts along with assistant Dale Osborne to coach the USA's contingent at the tournament along with a to be determined group of D-League players before the games begin on October 26.
"USA Basketball is excited to join forces with the NBA Development League to field the 2011 USA Pan American Games Men's basketball team," USA Basketball Men's National Team Director Sean Ford said in a press release. "Nate is one of the best coaches in the NBA D-League, he will bring great leadership and experience to the team. The fact that Nate and Dale already have a successful working relationship is a real benefit."
Both Pro Basketball Talk's Kurt Helin and Kelly Dwyer of Yahoo! Sports have already weighed in on this and how it could relate to the 2012 London Olympics, though Dwyer referred to the league as the NBDL despite it changing the name in 2005, but let me talk about it a bit more anyway.
As far as I can tell, the D-League players are being inserted instead of college players, not their NBA brethren. To wit, 2007's incarnation featured only college players -- and probably not the best of the bunch. Future first round picks Roy Hibbert, Eric Maynor and Wayne Ellington highlighted a group that also included the likes of Derrick Low, Maarty Leunen and Josh Carter.
According to the press release, 34 former Pan Am players have been a member of a U.S. Olympic squad, most of which came pre-Dream Team era. This isn't to say that the move isn't to have a contingency plan in place for the next Olympics if the NBA lockout continues, just that it doesn't seem like this was a move directly related to that.
Either way, the team probably won't be terrible as they will nearly all have previous experience in international basketball somewhere along their professional careers along with being joined by two players from USA Basketball's 2012 USA Select Team (likely two of the best NCAA players), according to the press release.
Regardless, this might have made it a little more worth your while to watch the D-League next season -- especially if it's the only professional basketball being played in America.