Today, USA Basketball announced that the Los Angeles Clippers Blake Griffin was injured during scrimmage on Wednesday and has returned to Los Angeles for medical evaluation. The New Orleans Hornets rookie Anthony Davis will suit up to fill the now vacant roster spot until the LA Clippers issue a press release on Griffin’s status.
Griffin joins Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh, Dwayne Wade, and Derrick Rose on the injured list. All of whom, were contenders for London 2012 spots before they withdrew. Griffin is the first of all these men to be injured during Olympic training, as opposed to regular or post-season play. In response to Griffin’s injury, Sports Illustrated’s Ian Thomsen has reopened the question is the “Dream Team” concept an unnecessary risk for NBA owners?.”
The Youtube videos of Griffin performing highlight reel dunks in the gym for an audience of high school students and teammates all over the Internet won’t look good to owners. But, on the flip side, Griffin did not wake up one morning with the ability to dunk like that. It’s a learned and practiced skill. He was in practice. In addition, it’s not really the NBA owners place to plan players off-season schedule. Sure, they do play in the Olympics for free, while owners must pay millions of dollars but owners also make many more millions dollars in return. Dwayne Wade has made the issue of compensation for Olympians a very public one . Yet, it’s a different battle altogether because the Olympics aren’t a business in the same way that the NBA is.
Griffin is not the first starter to be sidelined with injury. There has been a large increase in injuries during the 2011-2012 season. Sports writers and analysts have been pointing out for months that the compressed NBA season has correlated with high injury rates due to the NBA lockout. Last April, The Los Angeles Times, sports contributor Baxter Holmes noted that the Clippers played 20 games in 31 days in March. The Los Angeles Lakers Metta World Peace was even quoted as saying that he couldn’t go out to clubs or parties as much due to the busy schedule. Other players cite exhaustion as well. Griffin was injured during the playoffs early this year as was Derrick Rose.
The Olympics can and do provide players with an international audience and a chance to add to their overall merit, status and marketability. There has already been talk about changing Olympic regulation so that most NBA superstars will be ineligible. NBA owners and management have made it clear that they are uncomfortable about players performing without any benefit to their bank accounts.
“If you look up ‘stupid’ in the dictionary, you see a picture of the USA Dream Team playing for free for corporate America so the U.S. Olympic Committee can make billions of dollars,” Cuban told reporters in April. “And it has nothing to do with patriotism and it’s all about money. You don’t see the [International] Olympic Committee in Switzerland saying, ‘Oh, we made so much money, let’s give it to people.’ How many jets do they have?”
It’s funny because something similar could be said about Cuban himself and many other NBA team owners. There is little concern about the impact of playing 20 games in 31 days if owners benefit. However, there are different standards for the IOC.