The scary compound leg fracture suffered by Paul George during Friday night’s USA Basketball Showcase means one of the best and most promising players in the league will miss the entire 2014-15 NBA season. It also raised doubts about the participation of NBA players in international events like the Olympics and this year’s FIBA World Cup in Spain. Except NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement to ESPN on Sunday night, PG’s injury is unlikely to produce a “major shift” in the NBA’s policies towards international competition.
Here’s Silver’s statement, by way of ESPN, where he concedes the debate will be reopened on a league-wide basis to examine whether it makes sense for NBA players to perform on the international level, but said he doesn’t “anticipate a major shift in the NBA’s participation in international competitions.”
“Without a doubt, basketball has grown tremendously since 1992, when NBA players began playing in the Olympics. Also, it’s important to note the [improvement] many of our players have made in terms of ability, leadership and passion for the game by playing for their home countries. Injuries can happen any place at any time. The experiences our players have enjoyed by participating in their national teams, however, are ones that are unique and special in almost every other way. At this point, I don’t anticipate a major shift in the NBA’s participation in international competitions.
“It seems clear, however, that this will be a topic at our next NBA competition committee meeting in September and our board of governors meeting in October. And, of course, we will continue to evaluate the pros and cons of participating in international tournaments.”
Team president Larry Bird and the Pacers, meanwhile, made it clear in their statement about the injury, they still support USA Basketball, and reiterated their stance that it “could also have occurred anytime, anywhere.”
Everyone at the Dime family and the rest of the NBA community have united in support for George and his family. Sooner or later, though, the league’s political manifestations — almost always tethered to the bottom line — were bound to become a topic of discussion. Team’s take the most risk when their players choose to participate in international events. The NBA is a business, first and foremost, and one prominent general manager told Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski George’s injury could be a “game-changer.”
“The Olympics every four years is one thing, but the rest of this inconsequential [expletive] is ridiculous,” a GM with a player in Friday night’s scrimmage told Yahoo Sports. “We’re not paying our guys 50 percent of the BRI so our stars can be exposed to injuries just to let the league [convince itself] that they’re going to expand into European markets.”
George’s gruesome injury happened during a nationally televised scrimmage, and it occurred when his leg hit a basketball stanchion that was two feet closer to the court than it should have been.
That being said, the majority of league executives mirror Indiana’s thinking that an injury like this — while horrific for George, his family, the Pacers, and all fans of the NBA — could happen “anytime, anywhere,” and most support international competition to further the game around the globe. But the dissension surrounding international participation within NBA ranks will definitely increase after George’s injury occurred on such a large stage.
Dallas owner Mark Cuban has long been adamant the NBA and it’s players organize their own quadrennial event to supplant the Olympics and the international competitions he deems corrupt, as he told ESPN on Saturday:
“The [International Olympic Committee] is playing the NBA. The IOC is an organization that has been rife with corruption, to the point where a member was accused of trying to fix an Olympic event in Salt Lake. The IOC [pulls in] billions of dollars. They make a killing and make Tony Soprano look like a saint. The pros in multiple sports are smart enough to not play when they are eligible free agents. But teams take on huge financial risk so that the IOC committee members can line their pockets. The greatest trick ever played was the IOC convincing the world that the Olympics were about patriotism and national pride instead of money. The players and owners should get together and create our own World Cup of Basketball.”
After Silver’s statements to ESPN, here’s what Cuban tweeted out:
When considering FIBA/Olympic events ask who gets paid. Players=No. NBA=No FIBA/IOC=YES. Ask the people making money of us what they think
— Mark Cuban (@mcuban) August 4, 2014
Then there are the Spurs, who believe they are within their legal rights to veto Manu Ginobili‘s participation in the World Cup this summer.
Manu was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his leg late in June and he turned 37 this summer.
“Players are not allowed to participate with a national team in training or competition activities when there is a reasonable medical concern that such participation will place the player at substantial risk of injury, illness or other harm,” the NBA told teams in a memo the San Antonio Express-News‘ Mike Monroe obtained this summer.
Marc Stein of ESPN notes at the end of his piece today that since Silver took over for David Stern in February this year, he’s continually reiterated the NBA’s desire to make basketball the world’s No. 1 sport, which is the primary incentive when allowing NBA players to participate in international competitions. With Paul George down for a year, that dream may take a backseat to the very real liability concerns teams experience when their stars take the court.
That being said, basketball is a game the United States does very well, and preventing players from taking the court to support their country simply because of the risk of injury is present, neglects to mention every other instance when an NBA player could go down.
Should the NBA cut it’s ties to USA Basketball?
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