The injury suffered by Paul George during Friday night’s USA Basketball exhibition in Las Vegas was not only enough to visibly shake the rest of the attending players and shut down the scrimmage completely, but it could have ramifications that affect the future of international play.
George is expected to be out for the entire 2014-15 Pacers season, and that fact is a sobering one not just for the Indiana front office, but for all 30 NBA teams.
Owners and general managers may want to try to restrict star players from competing internationally in the future, but that would be a fairly large overreaction given just how rare these types of injuries are. And, doing so would require a reworking of the NBA’s deal with FIBA, which prevents such restrictions, at least in the agreement’s current state.
From Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:
Owners and GMs united tonight: Paul George injury could be tipping point for use of stars in international play. “Game-changer,” GM told me.
And from Marc Stein of ESPN.com:
NBA deal w/FIBA states that its teams can’t bar players from international comp unless there’s “reasonable medical concern” going in.
So that would suggest NBA teams won’t be able to put up any more resistance to international play unless/until its deal with FIBA changes
We’ve obviously seen injuries before in FIBA play but none involving Team USA stars. This will surely embolden NBA teams to voice objections
Stein also points out that this is the first major injury suffered by a USA Basketball participant since the original Dream Team started the tradition of professionals competing internationally back in 1992.
Pacers president Larry Bird, who would theoretically have been the one most upset by losing his star player for the upcoming season, had a calm, measured reaction when issuing a statement the very next day.
”We still support USA Basketball and believe in the NBA’s goals of exposing our game, our teams and players worldwide,” Bird said. “This is an extremely unfortunate injury that occurred on a highly-visible stage, but could also have occurred anytime, anywhere.”
And that’s the issue, precisely.
If NBA teams want to attempt to prohibit players from participating in international competition in the future in order to protect their investments, it would have to be a unilateral decision that restricted 100 percent of NBA players. It wouldn’t make sense, though, considering the league’s desire to continue to expand the game globally as much as possible, including with preseason exhibition games regularly scheduled to take place in other countries — one of which this October will feature the game’s best player in LeBron James.
No one would call for an end to basketball if James were to be hurt in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Oct. 11, and no one should be calling for the end of players participating in international competition now. Injuries can happen at any time when the game’s greatest athletes are competing at its highest level, and as unfortunate as it was to see George go down like that in an exhibition contest, that singular event shouldn’t necessarily be cause for panic when considering how to proceed in the future.
On the other hand, we’re largely talking about the league’s biggest stars, and the ones most likely to have lengthy careers and Hall of Fame legacies. If players decide that saving their athletic abilities for achieving NBA success and pursuing the league’s championships are more important than representing their country in international competition, then George’s injury may indeed impact the choices we see the players make regarding USA Basketball, and how they now perceive its relative importance.