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Adam Silver: NBA stars playing in international competition face ‘a big risk’

Aug 21, 2014, 1:08 PM EDT

Adam Silver, General Martin Dempsey Adam Silver, General Martin Dempsey

In the wake of the injury to Paul George at the USA Basketball showcase in Las Vegas, the topic of whether or not players should risk their NBA careers by playing for their country has been widely debated, but mostly by the league’s owners.

Mark Cuban has been the most vocal in discussing how there is no financial incentive for the players to play internationally, or for NBA teams to feel fine about the game’s biggest stars risking their availability for the upcoming season by participating.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver admitted that the risk is there for players with little or no financial reward, but maintained that it’s ultimately a personal decision.

From Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN New York:

“It is a big risk without enormous financial reward,” Silver said when asked about a sentiment shared by outspoken Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban during a “Commitment to Service” news conference to discuss a collaboration with the U.S. Department of Defense at Madison Square Garden. …

“I’ll only reiterate that ultimately it is a personal decision for these players,” Silver said. “I should point out that it is not just U.S. players we are referring to. Collectively we have close to 50 NBA players participating in this World Cup on behalf of their national teams.” …

“[Pacers president] Larry Bird said it well: Injuries happen. In sports, it could have happened outside the context of our national team as well. To the extent that players are participating, it is the very best coaching in the world, the very best trainers and very best facilities. On balance, there are various factors to be weighed, they come out better young men as a result of having participating in these events.”

Bird saw his Pacers team immediately go from a potential top-four finish in the East straight to the lottery, but still, he wasn’t ready to overreact. Meanwhile, Cuban’s reasoning behind his comments is purely financial.

Silver takes a more balanced approach here, and sees the benefits of his league’s players coming together to compete internationally. While there will always be players like Kevin Durant who end up bowing out for one reason or another, most players will continue to accept the honor of playing for their country — as long as their NBA contracts remain guaranteed, and there is no true financial risk in the event an injury occurs.

  1. Nadeem - Aug 21, 2014 at 1:47 PM

    Exactly, the operative phrase is “as long as their NBA contracts remain guaranteed, and there is no true financial risk in the event an injury occurs”. Therefore, if a player gets injured playing for anyone else but his NBA team, his contract should have a clause that ensures he receive no money till he gets fit.

    You will then see the players stop putting their teams at risk without anything of significance for themselves to lose.

    • mogogo1 - Aug 21, 2014 at 6:39 PM

      But is that really what the fans want? To have no NBA stars in international competition? And in the big-picture, is that really what’s best for the league as a whole?

      What you’re seeing is a major reversal in what the league itself wants. International competition was initially embraced as a way to help grow the brand. That happened under Stern’s watch but before he retired the league had already went to proposing no player older than 23 be able to compete internationally. And it sounds like Silver is following that lead. That’s a major reversal and I’ve never heard anybody from the NBA explain how that strategy would work if growing internationally is still a major goal for them.

  2. azarkhan - Aug 21, 2014 at 1:52 PM

    “Meanwhile, Cuban’s reasoning behind his comments is purely financial.”

    Well duhhhh. Do you think it’s because he never wants to be in the situation the Pacers find themselves in, paying $15.9 million to a player who won’t play a minute in the 2014-2015 season?

    • pburghballin - Aug 21, 2014 at 3:44 PM

      lol…I found the reference to Cuban’s remark a bit condescending on the writers behalf. Cuban didn’t get to as rich as he is by being an idiot. The man is protecting his investment. That’s what the team and these players are…they’re investments.

      Cuban was right. And for the record, Larry Bird was right too. There’s both drawbacks and benefits to international competition.

      And as said above, just wait and see if for one reason or another these contracts stop being guaranteed just how many of these superstars keep playing. Newsflash…it won’t be as many as are playing now…

    • katra2logic - Aug 21, 2014 at 4:09 PM

      This is most likely covered by insurance. It is still a blow as you do not have the services of the player however…

      • azarkhan - Aug 21, 2014 at 5:41 PM

        But we don’t know for sure, do we? But hey, insurance that will cover $15.9 million dollars is probably super cheap anyway, so why worry?

  3. cbking05 - Aug 21, 2014 at 2:21 PM

    Vin Baker made $65,000 playing in the Olympics

    • mackcarrington - Aug 21, 2014 at 2:57 PM

      Who paid him?

  4. ProBasketballPundit - Aug 21, 2014 at 2:29 PM

    This reminds me of what’s going on in football. Less and less parents are letting their children play football because of the concussion scare.

    I think the teamwork, discipline, and work ethic you learn on the practice field far outweighs the potential for a couple injuries. Your kid might suffer some form of injury that is virtually guaranteed to heal OR he could grow up a whimsical, anti-authoritarian maniac with no respect for his superiors. Just sayin.

    • 2016olympics - Aug 21, 2014 at 2:45 PM

      Good point, but it’s not as though the two are mutually exclusive. I know plenty of people who played four years in highschool and grew to be whimsical anti-authoritarian maniacs with no respect for his superiors.

      But I’m with you…let ’em play if they wanna play.

    • nflcrimerankingscom - Aug 21, 2014 at 3:07 PM

      How do you mention concussions in one paragraph, and then “injury that is virtually guaranteed to heal” in the next???

  5. campcouch - Aug 21, 2014 at 7:34 PM

    What’s funny is that George got hurt scrimmaging in the US. Silver shouldn’t make it sound like he was spending his summer in a Euro-league trying to get extra money. The NBA is all about pointing out when one of their players has a gold medal, but now it’s a risk since this freak injury occurred. Depending on the quality of players in next year’s draft, this may be a win in the end for Indiana. I don’t mean Duncan-Spurs type, but if they slip into the lottery, they could get a nice player. Time to tank Indy.

  6. csbanter - Aug 22, 2014 at 6:12 PM

    Translation our teams won’t be able to sell as many tickets if star players like George are injured.

    Also the revenue stream doesn’t reach our shores during International Play.

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