NBA players — and NFL, NHL, and Barclays Premier League players as well — know on some level that every time they step on the court or field they risk a catastrophic injury. Intellectually they get that. They also block it out of their minds — you can’t play all out if in the back of your mind there are concerns about a knee or whatever.
A fluke injury like Paul George’s happening right in front of the players can bring those fears to the front of the mind.
Golden State’s Stephen Curry — who is expected to be a starter for Team USA — has battled his share of injuries over the years and admitted George’s injury gave him pause, speaking with ESPN.
“Reacting to Paul’s injury is natural,” Curry said. “I think just talking to my family and guys in the Warrior front office, just kind of seeing where everybody was, but at the end of the day it’s a great honor to wear this jersey and to have these experiences and I’m going to take advantage of it.”
“Everyone’s all in,” (USA coach Mike) Krzyzewski said. “They wouldn’t be here if they weren’t all in. And they’ve been all-in. These guys love playing for the United States and they understand that we have a one month commitment now. And actually a month from today, if things went well, we would be playing for a gold medal in Madrid.”
Despite the loss of George and Kevin Durant — not to mention guys such as Kevin Love, Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge not taking part this summer — Team USA has the talent to get to that gold medal game. The USA lucked out with the draw and got a soft group and, once it enters elimination play, a soft side of the bracket if they win the division. The USA will likely face Spain in that gold medal game, and that presents some real challenges, but the USA should get there.
If more guys pulled out in the wake of the George injury, maybe that equation changes. But those guys all know the risk every time they step on the court anywhere.