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FIBA head open to sharing revenue with NBA, owners

LILLE, France -- Lend us your players, the head of FIBA asks of the NBA, and we can start putting dollars back in your pockets.

In a wide-ranging interview, FIBA secretary general Patrick Baumann argued that the work of his organization in staging major international championships does not have to come in competition to the NBA. If one benefits, so does the other, he said. And vice versa.

“In terms of sharing revenue, if the cake is big, everybody wants a piece of the cake, including the NBA owners," Baumann told ESPN.com. "We have no issue with that”

Changes are afoot for the FIBA Basketball World Cup, the international tournament held once every four years. A new global calendar for the sport was designed to reduce wear and tear and to strengthen the event's brand, but games will be scheduled during the NBA season, which will likely leave top-tier players unavailable to their national teams. The 2019 edition in China will also not be held in the same summer as its soccer counterpart, as it has been.

FIBA officials say there is no proposal for the NBA -- whose deputy commissioner, Mark Tatum, sits on the FIBA board -- to invest directly in the World Cup as some, including Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, have advocated. But there is now a clear, long-term intention to construct a model similar to soccer in which international basketball generates enough revenue that it will be in the interests of NBA teams to allow their stars to participate rather than hold them out.

“The NBA wants the FIBA World Cup to be at a much different level than it is today,” Baumann said. “It wants to be closer in terms of recognition to the FIFA World Cup. Maybe not in terms of money. That’s difficult. We are not in 80,000-seat stadiums. But to do that, we have to grow at a faster rate in many more places around the world. And then [the NBA] will be interested in being a part of it."

Revenue is one reason why China won last month's vote to be the 2019 host, Baumann said.

“The money is in Asia right now,” he said.

“But,” he added, “at first you have to bake the cake before you distribute the cake. How that happens, I don’t know. Once the cake is done, and we reach a certain level, we are comfortable sharing it. The political decision is taken already. How it happens technically is to be seen. With the NBA we have a strong relationship and we will work it out.”

Other steps have been taken to assuage the concerns from the NBA and major clubs in the Euroleague, including limiting the length of training camps before international competitions, beefing up the insurance coverage against injury and improving the quality of medical care provided.

Putting an age limit on the Olympic tournament, however, is off the table. It will remain, Baumann confirmed, “the cherry on the top of the cake.”

“When [former NBA commissioner] David Stern came up with the idea that it should be under-23, like football does, what happened? The first one to come out and say, 'No way' was Kobe Bryant," said Baumann, a member of the international Olympic committee. "And we need to have that for the World Cup, as well.”

Baumann also said measures have been taken to ensure FIBA does not get caught up in the kind of scandal that rocked its soccer equivalent. Less than 48 hours before the interview, FIFA's secretary general, Jerome Valcke, was suspended amid allegations of corruption. It is just one in a series of scandals to envelop the Swiss-based organization.

“We made a number of changes 18 months ago, by coincidence, where we took away a number of what some might consider weaker points in the governance of our football friends,” Baumann said. “We changed that.

“An example was we changed how you elect the board members. It’s now directly at the congress, not from the [continental] confederations, which was a point criticized [at FIFA]. But we’re a big family of people worldwide. I’m relatively confident we have nothing to hide and that we have a good family of people.”

One issue under close scrutiny is host rights for July 2016’s three qualifying tournaments for the 2016 Rio Olympics, with ESPN.com learning Turkey has become the latest country to express an interest, joining other possible contenders such as Germany and Canada.

Hosts will have to pay a minimum fee of €1.75 million (the equivalent of $2 million U.S.). Some argue that, with the bidding open even to countries who have not secured automatic berths in the tournament, it allows wealthier nations to buy their way back into the race to the Olympics.

How these wild cards are allocated, along with the process of bidding to stage World Cups, is likely to receive detailed examination.

“We have an internal working group that is looking at our processes and governance to minimize any potential for corruption,” Baumann said. “And then we will make the necessary changes.”