The Paul George leg injury last Friday night in a Las Vegas scrimmage was a gruesome reminder that freak accidents happen in professional sports. NBA fans remembered, the Indiana Pacers’ front office remembered, but perhaps more than anyone else NBA players themselves remembered. Today NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he doesn’t anticipate George’s leg injury will cause a ‘major shift’ in players’ world participation.
With all due respect, Commissioner, that’s not your call. That’s up to the players.
Silver released a statement in which he said “Injuries can happen anyplace 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.”
This one’s up to the players, Commish. Already this year we’ve seen Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge and others not participate in the Team USA scrimmages. Both were invited to camp.
Neither NBA power forward has indicated specifically why he chose to skip the mini-camp. It’s expected that Love chose not to participate due to an impending trade to the Cleveland Cavaliers, while Aldridge is in a contract year and didn’t likely want to risk injury and thus a max-contract payday.
Players already decide whether they want to play for Team USA. The NBA doesn’t control them when it comes to international play, and that’s not going to change. The only way it might is if the NBA outright puts a ban on international play for NBA players, and considering the global push the NBA’s making that’s not a likely scenario either.
Paul George’s leg injury occurred when his right leg hit the corner of the padded basket base 27 seconds into the fourth quarter and then broke in half at the shin. The injury will force George to miss the entire 2014-15 NBA season.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban called immediately for the NBA to organize its own competition outside of the International Olympic Committee. It’s unclear whether that move would include requirements that would keep the players any safer than they were in Thomas and Mack Center on Friday. It would, however, keep any associated funds with the players and league rather than the IOC.
Pacers president Larry Bird has already come out and said “We still support USA Basketball and believe in the NBA’s goals of exposing our game, our teams and players worldwide. This is an extremely unfortunate injury that occurred on a highly-visible stage but could also have occurred anytime, anywhere.”
Adam Silver’s comment may be right. There may be no ‘major shift’ in players’ world participation. However, that will be completely up to the players, not the league — much as it is today.