An eerie silence overcame USA Basketball's practice Thursday afternoon when DeMarcus Cousins tumbled to the floor after bumping knees with Anthony Davis. Cousins grabbed his right knee and limped off the court as the rest of Team USA cautiously looked on, fearing the worst less than two weeks after Paul George's gruesome leg injury.
News on Cousins came back positive, that an MRI revealed no structural damage and that the Kings forward was listed as day-to-day, though director of USA Basketball Jerry Colangelo said he didn't believe Cousins would be available to play Saturday against Brazil.
Cousins' injury scare, while not a serious one, won't allow the discussion to die down on whether or not NBA teams' franchise players should be playing competitively during the offseason. But the heads of USA Basketball, specifically director Jerry Colangelo and head coach Mike Krzyzewski, aren't worried and don't believe there's any correlation.
Colanegelo, who formerly owned the Phoenix Suns and has held various NBA positions for more than 40 years, has seen injuries take place in just about every form and denied that injuries are any more likely to occur playing international basketball.
"I know how valuable the players are, they’re valuable assets. We take every precaution to make sure nothing happens. But these guys are going to play, whether they’re with us or they’re going to come back here and play this summer in pick-up games, and things do happen," he said. "I’ve lost players in my career in summer league, I’ve lost them during the regular season and I’ve lost them in pick-up games. Season-ending injuries. So one injury doesn’t make it, that’s not the whole thing. It’s just part of the game."
George, who averaged 21.7 points and was named All-NBA third team last season, suffered a compound fracture in his right leg in Team USA's showcase two weeks ago in Las Vegas and is expected to miss the entire 2014-15 season.
Bulls head coach and Team USA assistant Tom Thibodeau shared similar sentiments about the injury, noting that the league's top players all are working out in some form during the offseason.
"Injuries, unfortunately, are part of the game, and you hate to see anyone get injured. And it could happen in the regular season, it could happen in the offseason, it could happen in practice, it could happen in a game. Basically, the only way you can guarantee a guy not getting hurt is don’t play at all. So, you’re never playing a game, never practice, never play in the offseason and you won’t get hurt. But that’s not the way you play this game."
Added Steph Curry: "Every time you suit up, whether it’s practice or during the season or working out during the summer playing pick-up wherever, you’re always at risk of getting hurt and we understand that as basketball players.
"So obviously you don’t want it to happen and you try to keep yourself out of precarious situations but when we’re out on the floor we can’t afford to have any doubt or hesitation, that’s when injuries do happen. Just play the game the way you know how and just pray for the best because injuries are a part of the game. That’s just the risk you take."
On a less important yet still significant note, Team USA is now looking to replace both George and Kevin Durant, who opted out last week citing physical and mental fatigue. It leaves USA Basketball thin on the wing from a roster standpoint, and as Krzyzewski noted also changes the team's game plan going forward.
For weeks both Durant and George, two of the team's best scorers, were considered focal points of the Team USA offense. That now will change, but Krzyzewski is confident in the coming weeks the team will find cohesion and a successful blueprint in the weeks leading up to tournament play in Spain.
"We had a whole camp building what we were doing around (George), so that’s the very first thing. You have really one of the great scorers, so how does that change your offense? It changes your offensive immensely," Krzyzewski said. "You have to do more to get your guards shots. These guards are really good. We’re complementing those guards with an inside game. We have to look at developing our inside game and getting our bigs more involved.
"That’s a concern for me because we were pretty far along; we had our best camp ever in Vegas since I’ve coached. But we had more in to play a certain way and Kevin deciding not to play, it’s concerning that hopefully we’ll be good enough on Saturday, and then we use New York to get better and get better during pool play."