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Report: NBA teams likely to resist stars participating in future international play in wake of Paul George injury

Aug 2, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

Team USA Showcase Getty Images

The injury suffered by Paul George during Friday night’s USA Basketball exhibition in Las Vegas was not only enough to visibly shake the rest of the attending players and shut down the scrimmage completely, but it could have ramifications that affect the future of international play.

George is expected to be out for the entire 2014-15 Pacers season, and that fact is a sobering one not just for the Indiana front office, but for all 30 NBA teams.

Owners and general managers may want to try to restrict star players from competing internationally in the future, but that would be a fairly large overreaction given just how rare these types of injuries are. And, doing so would require a reworking of the NBA’s deal with FIBA, which prevents such restrictions, at least in the agreement’s current state.

From Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Owners and GMs united tonight: Paul George injury could be tipping point for use of stars in international play. “Game-changer,” GM told me.

And from Marc Stein of ESPN.com:

NBA deal w/FIBA states that its teams can’t bar players from international comp unless there’s “reasonable medical concern” going in.

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

We’ve obviously seen injuries before in FIBA play but none involving Team USA stars. This will surely embolden NBA teams to voice objections

Stein also points out that this is the first major injury suffered by a USA Basketball participant since the original Dream Team started the tradition of professionals competing internationally back in 1992.

Pacers president Larry Bird, who would theoretically have been the one most upset by losing his star player for the upcoming season, had a calm, measured reaction when issuing a statement the very next day.

”We still support USA Basketball and believe in the NBA’s goals of exposing our game, our teams and players worldwide,” Bird said. “This is an extremely unfortunate injury that occurred on a highly-visible stage, but could also have occurred anytime, anywhere.”

And that’s the issue, precisely.

If NBA teams want to attempt to prohibit players from participating in international competition in the future in order to protect their investments, it would have to be a unilateral decision that restricted 100 percent of NBA players. It wouldn’t make sense, though, considering the league’s desire to continue to expand the game globally as much as possible, including with preseason exhibition games regularly scheduled to take place in other countries — one of which this October will feature the game’s best player in LeBron James.

No one would call for an end to basketball if James were to be hurt in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Oct. 11, and no one should be calling for the end of players participating in international competition now. Injuries can happen at any time when the game’s greatest athletes are competing at its highest level, and as unfortunate as it was to see George go down like that in an exhibition contest, that singular event shouldn’t necessarily be cause for panic when considering how to proceed in the future.

On the other hand, we’re largely talking about the league’s biggest stars, and the ones most likely to have lengthy careers and Hall of Fame legacies. If players decide that saving their athletic abilities for achieving NBA success and pursuing the league’s championships are more important than representing their country in international competition, then George’s injury may indeed impact the choices we see the players make regarding USA Basketball, and how they now perceive its relative importance.

  1. urodaddy07 - Aug 2, 2014 at 2:18 PM

    That reaction while understandable, would be wrong and illogical. Injuries like this can occur anywhere. Would owners feel better if it occurred in training camp? Also, these guys are professional players and they should be allowed/encouraged to participate in the sport at the highest level.They also know that injury is a part of the sport.

    • chicagosports2014 - Aug 2, 2014 at 4:59 PM

      Get well dude. “

  2. samsonight1010 - Aug 2, 2014 at 2:28 PM

    Pop sits his starters and gets fined for it, but it’s going to be okay to have whichever college athletes are willing to participate play for team USA? It’s awful what happened to George, but I wouldn’t surprised if he wanted to play in the 2016 Olympics despite this injury. He’s a competitor, that’s what they do, compete.

  3. smackingfools - Aug 2, 2014 at 2:28 PM

    Need to just do away with all sports. You could be injured. Just give them all a ps4 controller so hopefully nobody else gets hurt.

  4. money2long - Aug 2, 2014 at 2:49 PM

    The support of my idea just keeps flowing in …

  5. asimonetti88 - Aug 2, 2014 at 3:21 PM

    Having college players would be a terrible idea. They already aren’t getting paid.

    • seansull83 - Aug 2, 2014 at 3:48 PM

      I totally agree, the idea of using college players to protect stars is selfish. So a star right now is more important than a potentially great 19yo who makes no money and if injured would lose his scholarship, and potentially couldn’t afford the rehab. How is that scenario any better or less messed up from a moral viewpoint.

  6. Damidwesterner - Aug 2, 2014 at 3:57 PM

    We already saw the backlash coming, from the NHL GMs when there were a couple of injuries during the Olympics.

  7. seansull83 - Aug 2, 2014 at 4:11 PM

    What’s more messed up is how people are referring to people who suffer these types of injuries like the are property or material possessions. Gms have 0 rights to determine what a healthy player can do on HIS offseason. He isn’t a prize car you take out only on sunny Sundays, he is a human with desires, wants and needs, and he felt that playing for the US team was right for him. It’s sucks what happened, but it is a part of professional sports.

    • 6thsense10 - Aug 2, 2014 at 10:40 PM

      Actually they can and do restrict players from certain activities during the off season. I’ve heard of contracts that void if a player gets injured while riding a motorcycle… Ala Jay Williams…it’s unrealistic to think that a team will invest $90 million guaranteed in a person and not have these restrictions.

      Every job has restrictions. Some are more than others.

  8. mackcarrington - Aug 2, 2014 at 4:31 PM

    I don’t think it was the fact that they were playing international ball. I mean, they were doing what they do, which is simply playing ball. The issue in this particular case was that basket stanchion. And if they are going to address that, they should look at what can be done about scorers tables and cameramen on the baselines too. I’m surprised there aren’t more injuries involving scorers tables.

    • elcaminobilly - Aug 2, 2014 at 5:11 PM

      I am too, but I suspect it’s because all the players know exactly where it is and most importantly, it doesn’t change, so they take that into account and adjust their reactions properly.

      I would have second thoughts if I were a player about competing in something like this. I can see both sides, too. Representing your country is a great honor, but is it worth the risk of ending your career? Each player must weight the options in their mind and decide for themselves.

  9. udub - Aug 2, 2014 at 5:58 PM

    What if Paul George were injured playing in a local gym? Training camp? A game of one on one after practice? A preseason exhibition? If he were younger and playing in the Summer League?

    Playing basketball in any of those scenarios that isnt a regular season seems totally fine to NBA teams, but now all the sudden international ball isnt??

  10. campcouch - Aug 2, 2014 at 7:37 PM

    Or if that stanchion was back 2 feet, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

  11. rrhoe - Aug 2, 2014 at 9:02 PM

    It’s being reported that “The basket stantion at the Thomas and Mack Center in Vegas is about four feet closer to the baseline than the ones used in the NBA.”

    If this is true then they are putting all players at risk………

  12. the8man - Aug 2, 2014 at 11:03 PM

    Just saw the video of Paul George’s injury. Resisted seeing it as long as I could. Sorry I watched. Hideously horrible fracture. Absolutely inexcusable if this is the result of the actual arena in which they played.

    This isn’t just about a playing career. This is about someone’s long term health. How many pins and screws is he gonna have in that leg for the rest of his life just so he can stand on it?

    Wish him the best in his recovery. I still can’t believe what I saw.

  13. kvt7280 - Aug 2, 2014 at 11:25 PM

    This game shouldn’t of been played in the first place because it’s just a “scrimmage”. But the NBA teams shouldn’t force their players not to play unless it’s either in the CBA or in the player’s contract. They are adults and I think they know the risks so they can do what they want.

  14. longtallsam - Aug 4, 2014 at 6:32 PM

    If owners are going to discourage or bar players from participating in the World Cup because of injury risk, then why are players allowed to play in these summer pro-ams everywhere? Let’s stop having pre-season training camp and in-season practice, also. After all, there is a risk of injury there, too. The only time an injury should be acceptable, is if occurs in an actual NBA game! Let’s do away with any other activity that may include any element of injury risk! Playing golf in their free time? I am sure some owners wouldn’t like that…there is a chance of injury.

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