Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Paul George's Injury: Another Sticking Point for Keeping Players Home?

Over the weekend, news broke from team USA basketball camp that Paul George had severely broken his leg during a USA intrasquad game.  George was coming back to defend against a James Harden break away, making a leaping attempt to block Harden's drive to the hoop.  Unfortunately for Paul, his leaping ability might have cost him this one.  As he landed his foot caught enough of the bottom of the hoop stanchion that the force from the land bent his leg at the high ankle area.  The unpleasant result was a compound fracture of George's tibia and fibula.   Just like that, the budding superstar's 2014-2015 NBA season was over before it started.

For quite some time now there has been a growing debate in not only basketball, but in baseball and hockey as well, about allowing franchise players to participate in world tournaments where the players get to represent their home country.  Since the injury to budding superstar Paul George, this debate has quite possibly reached a new level of intensity.  Most notably, to not many's surprise, Mark Cuban is at the forefront of the group supporting an under 21 international competition model as he notes in his own blog.  This sort of provision would keep developed NBA stars from taking part in international tournaments, but I say hold the phone.  Yes, Paul George's injury is a damn shame, but lets pump the breaks on calling for immediate change due to what, in my eyes, was a freakish occurrence.

I believe there to be several solid reasons as to why the George injury should not be the tipping point in this hot argument.  Lets start with the fact that the NBA is obviously not on par with the MLB or NFL in terms of generating revenue, and they are more equal with the NHL.  The world's greatest play in the NBA, and when they get a chance to put on their country's colors the NBA benefits.  Exposure is huge in the sport world, and to keep talented foreign players from playing for their country and increasing excitement about the sport would harm the game's future growth.

Furthermore what makes it any more OK to risk players under the age of 21 to injury in these tournaments.  Players that age have hopes of making it in the NBA, and if they move the draft age back, hopes of even getting drafted.  Should a top prospect get hurt his draft stock will likely plummet and their career could be in jeopardy depending on the injury.  Putting future NBA caliber players at risk doesn't seem any more productive to me than the current system.

And the most over used part of this side of the "let them play" argument is that the players want to be there.  Otherwise they wouldn't be there.  They see it as a good bonding experience, a way to get better by learning from one another. Not as oh man I need to watch my every step because I can't get hurt and miss the NBA season.  Each of them very well understands the risk involved, but this is their livelihood and each player only gets so long to pursue it.  Hell, you'd think after basically missing the past two NBA seasons Derrick Rose would be as far away as he could be from international play, preparing himself for what looks to be a promising 2014/15 season from the Chicago Bulls.  Instead, he is right in the thick of things at USA camp working to earn a spot on the team.

Again, Paul George's injury is extremely unfortunate, the NBA and even more so Indiana Pacers will greatly miss his presence this year.  But the facts are that this kind of injury does not happen often enough to invoke change. To hold players out of something they truly enjoy and want to participate in would be wrong.  If they didn't want to be there they'd say so, like NFL players and the Pro-Bowl. 


Cole Miller, from Haddonfield, NJ, is currently a sophomore Sport Management major at Drexel. Over the summer, Cole volunteered for the 43rd SABR convention, a large convention with many speakers and other events for baseball fans who enjoy the new age statistics being brought to baseball such as WAR (wins above replacement ).   Cole is a huge fan of baseball, specifically the Phillies.

You can connect on Cole on LinkedIn here.

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