In the wake of Paul George‘s horrific leg injury that he suffered during a Team USA intrasquad scrimmage, there has been talk of making wholesale changes to the current trend of using NBA superstars in international competition. George will most likely miss the entire 2014/15 season as a result, which severely dampens the Pacers’ chances of contending in the Eastern Conference this year.
The Pacers didn’t place the blame on George’s participation in USA Basketball, and correctly pointed out that if George wasn’t playing with Team USA, the injury could just have easily occurred while scrimmaging at a high school gym, or on an outdoor court. But others haven’t been quite so diplomatic.
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was one of the harsher critics of players participating in international play, and of FIBA and the IOC in general. Cuban hopes the injury will spur the NBA into creating its own international tournament where the league has more control as well as receives the benefits of holding such competitions. Cuban also said, “I think it’s a bigger issue than star players. We are being taken advantage of by the IOC (International Olympic Committee) and to a lesser extent FIBA. We take on an inordinate amount of financial risk for little, if any, quantifiable gain. It’s like our guiding principle is to lose money on every game and make it up in volume. There is no logic to our position. (We) just hope we get value somewhere in the future.”
NBA commissioner Adam Silver said that the league would discuss altering the international model this fall. “I don’t anticipate a major shift in the NBA’s participation in international competition,” Silver said. “We will continue to evaluate the pros and cons of participating in international tournaments [and] this will be a topic at our next NBA Competition Committee meeting in September and Board of Governors meeting in October.”
Should the league continue to allow its players to participate in USA Basketball? What are the options they could explore going forward to alter the current international play model? Here are a few possibilities:
- The most drastic would be a complete ban for any under-contract NBA player to participate in Olympic and international competition. This would take us back to the pre “Dream Team” years when only amateur players were permitted to compete in the Olympics. The main issues with this approach would be whether or not the U.S. would accept the potential risk of missing out on competing for a gold medal because we declined to send our best players; this would also deprive NBA stars of the Olympic experience. It would place college players’ future careers in jeopardy if they were to be hurt. Unlike the pros, they haven’t been paid for their talents yet, and have a lot to lose if they suffer an injury as brutal as George’s.
- The NBA could follow Cuban’s suggestion and form their own international tournament. This wouldn’t prevent injuries from occurring, but the league would have more of a say in the usage of its players, plus provide their own medical and training staffs. The other benefit to the league is that the owners and teams would receive some compensation for the risk their players take on by participating.
- Another proposed idea has been putting an age limit on players who participate in international competition. This would allow NBA players to still compete, but limit their exposure to just a few years of international competition, which would protect teams somewhat against older players getting injured, as well as reducing “wear-and-tear” on veterans.
There’s no easy answer to this debate. George’s injury was the first major one to be suffered by an NBA player while participating with USA Basketball. Changing the whole system might be an overreaction, but team owners do carry an unrewarded financial risk when their players take part in international competition. All the extra minutes spent in practice and in tournaments add up over time, and could contribute to players breaking down earlier in their careers as well. What’s your opinion? Vote below for the answer you think provides the best solution going forward.