When Paul George went down with a horrific fractured leg injury in last week’s USA Basketball showcase in Las Vegas, it was a sobering reminder to players of the risk they’re taking by choosing to participate in international competition.
But USA Basketball is an organization that values commitment and loyalty, so that risk won’t go unrewarded, at least in George’s case.
Despite having a deep pool of talented players to draw from, and even with the 2016 Olympics still a couple of years away, Jerry Colangelo says that he told George he has a spot waiting for him on the 2016 USA roster.
“We’ve told him we have a spot for him in ’16,” Colangelo told NBA.com at festivities Thursday in advance of the Friday enshrinement of the Hall of Fame class.
Without seeing how he comes back.
“Right,” said Colangelo, also the Hall chairman. “That’s what we told him.”
“We thought it’s the right thing to do,” Colangelo said. “That’s it…. We didn’t give thought to all the detail. Just that when a guy goes down and all these things, the circumstances, his career passes before him, he’s out for a year, a year-plus, he’s not able to participate now with us — we wanted to throw that out and say, ‘We’re counting on you. You’ve got a spot in ’16.’ “
It’s worth noting that it’s far from guaranteed that this actually takes place.
Just last summer, the highlight of the USA Basketball mini-camp in Las Vegas was the commitment of both Kevin Durant and Kevin Love to playing for the team in the FIBA World Cup that begins this August.
We all saw how that turned out — Love was forced to withdraw due to being involved in an upcoming trade that will send him to play alongside LeBron James with the Cavaliers, and Durant similarly withdrew, albeit for reasons that seemed less concrete.
There’s no doubting Colangelo’s sincerity when he made this statement, because again, he likes the bond that USA Basketball has with its players, and likes to demonstrate that the commitment he demands is a two-way street. But a lot can change in the next two years, so it’s virtually impossible to do anything more than pencil George in, despite the program’s best intentions.