NBA Would Make Monumental Mistake Forbidding Players From Playing Internationally

By Brian Neal
2014 USA Basketball Team
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Following Paul George‘s hair-raising and heart-wrenching injury, many are wondering if there will be backlash from the NBA. Specifically, will the Association start banning players, or perhaps at least star players, from participating in international play, whether it be for Team USA or otherwise?

While an argument could certainly be made that it puts the players at risk for injury, does it really put them at monumentally more risk than they’re already at during a normal offseason?

Basketball players never stop playing basketball. They play and train year-round, and whether it be in a practice facility, a park, an amateur event or international competition, the chance that a player gets hurt before the season even starts is always there.

Is it perhaps slightly heightened when it’s nationally televised against great competition? Sure. I won’t sit here and deny that, but not to the degree that the league would ever have to consider forbidding players from playing in these games. After all, can anyone recall another serious season-ending injury occurring to an NBA player in recent years during international competition? I, for one, cannot.

Now, I could see a scenario where players themselves start to take into consideration the pros and cons of competing during the summer. Of course, they want to represent their country in most cases and it’s a wonderful honor to play in the FIBA World Cup or Olympics. But that choice should always and forever remain theirs.

Let us not forget, George’s injury wasn’t some normal injury. It wasn’t as if he tore his ACL or had some other unfortunate mistiming that happened because of a wrong twist or something that could be blamed on too much wear and tear. If anything is to blame for the injury, it should be the fact that the hoop stanchion was not a safe distance away from play, whereas it would’ve been on any college, NBA or official international court. That court was not set up properly and ESPN even noted during their post-game broadcast of the Blue-White matchup that this is an issue with this specific court in Las Vegas, as it doesn’t meet the specs that other professional or collegiate courts do.

Any backlash from the league or USA basketball should only be that they must always play on courts that are up set up correctly to ensure that nothing like this can ever happen again. As tragic as this incident was, it was a freak injury if there ever was one — even more so than Kevin Ware‘s a couple years ago — and it’s likely to never happen again in this fashion.

So, any type of rulings or demands, if any, other than making sure the courts are set up safely from now on, will have been a massive overreaction.

Players have the right to choose for themselves, and playing for one’s country is important, especially for other countries where they don’t get to see their best players from the NBA every year. Team USA deserves to be represented by its country’s best in every competition, whether it be the FIBA World Cup or Olympics.

It can’t be stated enough how awful and sad George’s injury is, but it’s no reason to stop Team USA from having NBA players. It’s simply a matter of making sure the conditions are safe in every aspect when they take the court.

Brian Neal is an NFL and NBA contributor for Follow him on Twitter @brianneal23, “Like” him on Facebook and add him on Google+.

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