The Paul George injury conjured up thoughts of Kevin Ware, Joe Theismann, Shaun Livingston, Moises Alou and a number of other gruesome injuries that made all of our stomachs twist into knots. There’s one major difference with this one — it happened in an exhibition. It wasn’t an exhibition where George was representing his employer, either. Sure, he’s representing the league in a way, but it was certainly out of the realm of business as usual. That makes me wonder — is the International play worth it?
If you were old enough to remember the importance of country vs. country battle back in the 1980’s and earlier, you’re probably thinking it’s absolutely worth it. I’d stretch to say if you live outside of North America, you think it’s worth it without even thinking twice. I’m in neither of those groups and I think the George injury is the extreme version of why NBA players shouldn’t be competing outside of their team’s usual activities.
There are rules in place on this already:
NBA deal w/FIBA states that its teams can’t bar players from international comp unless there’s “reasonable medical concern” going in. So …
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) August 2, 2014
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 — Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) August 2, 2014
Now, the basketball world is a giant community where many of the players are friendly. In fact, I’d say that of the four major professional sports in America, basketball has the tightest fraternity. The guys hang out in the offseason, work out together and play in various charity/pro-am events, regardless of what team they play for.
Because of that, I can understand why the players would want to come together to play for a unified cause. Still, if we think they aren’t putting themselves at extra risk, we’re being quite naive.
The fact of this whole situation is that it could have happened anywhere. George could have been doing this in practice and he could have hurt himself. The issue I take with playing Internationally has less to do with the freak accident that happened to George and more to the general wear and tear that players put on their bodies.
Our bodies are amazing — but they’re not bulletproof. We slowly break down naturally from the strain we put on our joints. Athletes accelerate that process because of the enormous beating their bodies take. Why increase that risk and subsequently take effective time off of the end of one’s career?
From a team’s standpoint — the Indiana Pacers in this example — they must be furious. It’s nobody’s “fault,” but do you think they’re going to encourage their players to do this from here on out? Sure, they’ve got insurance policies that will help with the financial aspect, but it’s got more far-reaching effects than that. The Pacers season is essentially over (as far as being contenders is concerned). Yes, the Pacers can get salary cap relief if George misses the whole year, but how will they fill that spot? George is a budding superstar, not a rotation guy.
Even if George didn’t get hurt — he was affecting his body in ways he wouldn’t have if he had approached the offseason as a rest period. Look at guys like Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili for great examples. Kawhi Leonard even said as much when he decided to skip the FIBA World Cup.
We live in a global society now. The country vs. country argument is old and outdated. I wouldn’t be surprised if the United States general population gives up on the idea over the next century. International play just isn’t worth it for our professionals. Send the semi-professionals who don’t have as much to lose if it’s so important that we compete as a country.