With any catastrophic injury — make no mistake it was catastrophic — there is uproar and call for change. However, the Paul George injury during Friday’s Team USA scrimmage, although very unfortunate, was merely bad luck.
Injuries can happen anytime, anywhere when guys are playing competitive sports at the highest level and if you think that these guys wouldn’t be playing basketball at all if not for Team USA then you, my friend, are extremely naive.
Playing basketball for your country is something that cannot be replaced, whether its in the Olympics or in a FIBA World Cup, when players are invited to take part in an event like this, they take it seriously.
The worry of course for NBA teams is whether or not their players will play too many minutes during the offseason and possibly risk injury. The Trail Blazers have three players participating in the FIBA World Cup — Nicolas Batum (France), Damian Lillard (USA) and Victor Claver (Spain).
No offense to Claver, but if the Blazers were to lose Batum or Lillard the season would be in shambles.
Blazers coach Terry Stotts expressed concern during the team exit interviews regarding his players that might be playing in the FIBA World Cup — namely Batum.
Stotts said, “The French team is starting practice two months before the championships and they’re holding two-a-days. It’s a different mentality.”
When asked about his level of concern over Batum he said, “If he does — I don’t know if he is or not, it’s his decision — I’d be more concerned about that.”
While Stotts has a right to be concerned about one of his key contributors logging too many minutes in the offseason, his assumptions are a bit off. Batum has played with the French National Team (Senior Team) since 2009 and only once has he logged an average of more than 30 minutes per game — in 2011 he averaged 31.3 minutes per game.
So to assume that he will be overrun with an influx of minutes is most likely incorrect. There could be an increase in Batum’s minutes due to Tony Parker not playing in the World Cup, however I doubt it will get anywhere near the 36 minutes per game which Stotts plays him at game in and game out during the NBA season.
Batum was 16th in the NBA last season for minutes played at 36 nightly and only LaMarcus Aldridge averaged more for the Blazers last season coming in at 36.2. Aldridge is heading into the final year of his five-year deal and chose to sit out of the FIBA World Cup to rest and get ready for the regular season.
While I have no issue either way, I think it’s tough to tell someone not to play for their country for risk of injury, when they would be playing somewhere else nonetheless. Professional athletes practice their sport 365 days a year and if they don’t, they probably aren’t being invited to events like this anyway.
Another fact that pokes a hole in Stotts’ worry regarding Batum is that nine other players from the NBA playing in FIBA average more minutes than him in the NBA as well. And there’s this one guy named Kevin Durant who hasn’t played less than 38 minutes a game since his rookie season and he is still going strong.
Again, injuries can happen at anytime so if an NBA player wants to play for his country in the FIBA World Cup then I have no issues with it.