With Team USA in Chicago this week to continue preparations for the upcoming World Cup of Basketball, it’s only natural to wonder about the future of NBA stars participating in this type of event.
Surely, the Indiana Pacers would have some reservations after watching their young star, Paul George, suffer a devastating leg injury during an intrasquad scrimmage last month. George is most likely out for the 2014-15 season, and his bright future as one of the elite players in the game is now in question.
Bulls executives are watching anxiously as well with Derrick Rose trying to come back from a pair of serious knee injuries. Rose has looked like his old self during the early stages of Team USA camp, showing off that extra turbo gear that made him the league’s youngest MVP back in the 2010-11 season. But with a busy schedule of exhibition and tournament play coming up, is it really in the Bulls’ best interests to risk their franchise player’s health ahead of one of the most anticipated seasons in years?
Clearly, the league’s competition committee and Board of Governors will have plenty to talk about when they hold their annual meetings this fall. Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban has been an outspoken critic of using NBA stars for international tournaments, and he figures to pick up a lot of support from other franchises. Cuban has suggested the NBA creates its own World Cup tournament, so that if teams are willing to risk the health of their stars, at least the players and franchises will be the ones that profit, not FIBA or other outside parties.
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Still, when you really get down to it, do we really need the top NBA players to get involved in demanding offseason tournaments every two years? The season is already long enough with eight exhibition games, 82 regular season games, and two full months of playoffs.
It’s actually pretty amazing the Team USA program has been relatively injury-free over the 22 years since the NBA first got involved. George’s compound leg fracture will definitely spark a new round of discussion over whether it makes sense to risk the careers of the NBA’s top stars. To see the horrified looks on the faces of George’s teammates is all the evidence you need that the risk probably isn’t worth it to prove what people around the world already know: The NBA features the best players and best competition globally.
So, when you watch Rose and Team USA this weekend, enjoy the spectacle of some of the league’s best players banding together to represent their country. The NBA has already floated the idea of sending an under-23 team to future Olympic and World Cup events, and it might be time for all parties involved to give that concept serious consideration. Just ask Pacers’ president Larry Bird, who watched his team transformed from Eastern Conference finalist to possible lottery team in the blink of an eye.