In the wake of the injury to Paul George at the USA Basketball showcase in Las Vegas, the topic of whether or not players should risk their NBA careers by playing for their country has been widely debated, but mostly by the league’s owners.
Mark Cuban has been the most vocal in discussing how there is no financial incentive for the players to play internationally, or for NBA teams to feel fine about the game’s biggest stars risking their availability for the upcoming season by participating.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver admitted that the risk is there for players with little or no financial reward, but maintained that it’s ultimately a personal decision.
“It is a big risk without enormous financial reward,” Silver said when asked about a sentiment shared by outspoken Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban during a “Commitment to Service” news conference to discuss a collaboration with the U.S. Department of Defense at Madison Square Garden. …
“I’ll only reiterate that ultimately it is a personal decision for these players,” Silver said. “I should point out that it is not just U.S. players we are referring to. Collectively we have close to 50 NBA players participating in this World Cup on behalf of their national teams.” …
“[Pacers president] Larry Bird said it well: Injuries happen. In sports, it could have happened outside the context of our national team as well. To the extent that players are participating, it is the very best coaching in the world, the very best trainers and very best facilities. On balance, there are various factors to be weighed, they come out better young men as a result of having participating in these events.”
Bird saw his Pacers team immediately go from a potential top-four finish in the East straight to the lottery, but still, he wasn’t ready to overreact. Meanwhile, Cuban’s reasoning behind his comments is purely financial.
Silver takes a more balanced approach here, and sees the benefits of his league’s players coming together to compete internationally. While there will always be players like Kevin Durant who end up bowing out for one reason or another, most players will continue to accept the honor of playing for their country — as long as their NBA contracts remain guaranteed, and there is no true financial risk in the event an injury occurs.