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Foreign Soiled

by Ric Bucher
ESPN the Magazine (Not Online)

Lebron James is under fire for hedging on his summer commitment to Team USA. But even if he is the latest in a long line of American pros to make noise about begging off playing for his country, the U.S. suits can take some solace in knowing the heck-no-we-won't-go trend isn't unique to their fellow citizens anymore.

Double duty is becoming too much for the players on the other side of the pond as well. "International tournaments have you playing five games in six days!' says Nets swingman Bostjan Nachbar, a member of the Slovenian national team. "We don't even do that in the NBA. If you pick up a bump or an ache, you're not 100% when you go back to your off-season training. That means you're not ready for training camp, and that means you're not ready for the season".

And that means the team that pays you isn't getting its money's worth. So even stars devoted to international comp, such as Canada's Steve Nash and Mexico's Eduardo Najera, have passed on their national service. Peja Stojakovic hasn't played for Serbia in five years.

It's true that despite suiting up for Slovenia in the World Championships last summer, Nachbar is currently enjoying his best NBA season. But he played only sparingly for the Nets in 2005-06. He's not about to jeopardize any free agent deals waiting for him in the (next) off-season by playing for his homeland in Olympic qualifiers this summer. And he's not sure fellow Slovenians Beno Udrih, Rasho Nesterovic or Primoz Brezec will either.

"It's not like you can take a week off and everything will be fine" says Nachbar. "A week of international competition leaves a mark"

Looks like Team USA won't be the only one hurting.