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Olympics notebook

Stern envisions China outpost

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Wire Services / August 20, 2008
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In 1992, the original "Dream Team" introduced NBA basketball to the world stage at the Barcelona Olympics. Sixteen years later, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Dwyane Wade have become Beijing's darlings - and the NBA is hoping to capitalize on the popularity by investing millions in the sport's development in China.

The league has plans for an NBA-affiliated league there, and commissioner David Stern, who arrived in Beijing Monday night, envisions league partnership in as many as "eight or 10 or 12 arenas throughout China."

"The world is embracing the sport that the Dream Teamers brought to Barcelona," Stern said. "And I would say the 2008 Olympics really demonstrate that complete embrace."

Stern said he never imagined the NBA/China relationship that began in 1985 would be as popular as it is at the Beijing Games.

"You know, I didn't even dare to think about that," Stern said. "The question was one step at a time. If you've been along on the journey, sometimes you don't realize how far you've come."

Stern said NBA China is in an "ongoing dialogue" with Chinese authorities about installing 800,000 baskets in villages across the sprawling country. The NBA also hopes to be involved with a Chinese professional league. But Stern balked at comparisons with the NBA's Development League.

"That would be a separate league that would be NBA-affiliated or NBA-sponsored, but it would be independent," Stern said.

India could be next on the NBA's radar. Stern said NBA officials have met in Beijing with Indian authorities, and the league staged its first Basketball Without Borders events in India this summer. "We think that that's a very promising market," said Stern.

Surgery for Jackson

Australia's star basketball player, center Lauren Jackson, will undergo surgery on a persistent right ankle injury after the Olympics, likely costing her the rest of the season with the WNBA's Seattle Storm.

A statement from the Australian Olympic Committee said Jackson has an impingement at the front of her right ankle joint. She has required repeated injections to compete in Beijing and will have arthroscopic surgery in Sydney next week.

Typical recovery time from the surgery is 4-6 weeks, meaning the earliest Jackson would return to the Storm would be during the playoffs. Storm coach Brian Agler said the team was disappointed to hear the news of Jackson's surgery, but added that it supports her decision to have the procedure.

Baldini may not run

Stefano Baldini of Italy is uncertain whether he will defend his Olympic marathon title Sunday. Baldini injured his right thigh Friday and has not been able to prepare in ideal conditions.

"I haven't trained for three days and my morale is down," the 37-year-old reigning European champion told Italian reporters.

Bachman improving

Barbara Bachman, the victim of a stabbing attack in Beijing in which her husband, Todd Bachman, the father-in-law of the US men's volleyball coach, was killed, is starting to talk and walk short distances while recovering at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Daughters Elisabeth (a former US volleyball player), Sara, and Susan said in a statement that their mother is making incredible progress, and doctors are calling her a "miracle." Bachman's doctors have upgraded her condition to good, the Mayo Clinic announced . . . US baseball player Matt LaPorta was held out of yesterday's 4-2 win over Taiwan as he recovers from a mild concussion suffered Monday when he was hit in the helmet by a pitch against China. LaPorta hoped to play in tonight's final preliminary game against Japan . . . Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, confronted with sudden array of global troubles, has dropped plans to attend the closing ceremonies. She will be replaced by Labor Secretary Elaine Chao as leader of the US delegation for Sunday's finale.

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