George Injury a “Turning Point” for NBA Players in International Competition?
On Sunday, Mark Cuban, long-time opponent of his NBA players participating in offseason international competitions like the FIBA World Cup and Summer Olympics, made a great point about why he feels the way he does about an issue that has suddenly gotten very hot since Paul George’s gruesome leg injury on Friday.
In other words, NBA teams don’t make any money off their players doing the summer international thing, yet they are the ones who assume the overwhelming majority of the financial risk should an injury like George’s occur.
It’s for this reason that other executives are expected to join in Cuban’s crusade against having NBA veterans participate in the World Cup and the Olympics.
Larry Bird has said publicly that the Indiana Pacers still support USA Basketball. But according to Marc Stein of ESPN.com, another anonymous exec said, “Now that you have this situation, it’s going to make it a lot easier for teams to voice their objections.”
While no one is expected to be more vocal than Cuban, Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement on Sunday that he expects the subject to come up at the next NBA competition committee meeting in September. In other words, enough owners and front offices are fired up enough about this that they’re already ready to start talking about how to change things so this doesn’t happen again.
“Of course we will continue to evaluate the pros and cons of participating in international tournaments,” Silver said.
However, he added, “At this point, I don’t anticipate a major shift in the NBA’s participation in international competitions.”
According to Silver, “It’s important to note the [improvement] many of our players have made in terms of ability, leadership and passion for the game by playing for their home countries. Injuries can happen at any time. The experiences our players have enjoyed by participating in their national teams, however, are ones that are unique and special in almost every other way.”
A gold medal is priceless to some players, which is why Silver expects them to keep taking part in theses competitions, risk and all.
In fact, Derrick Rose, who has proven to be the league’s most fragile superstar over the course of the last two years, is using this summer’s international experience as a key part of his rehab. He’s been 100 percent healthy for months, but playing with Team USA has given him his first truly challenging playing experiences since injuring his meniscus 10 games into the 2013-14 NBA season.
Without this opportunity, he’d be shaking off two years of rust at the start of next season, rather than right now, which is an entirely more appropriate time for him to be doing it.
Teams may hate their players taking on the risk of injury, but the truth is that this is the first time in 22 years of pros playing in the Olympics and FIBA tournaments that anyone has gotten this severely injured. In other words, the rarity of this should be viewed as more of a positive than a negative.
Beyond that, the players still want to take part in these tournaments, for both pride and the camaraderie.
We’ll see what teams have to say about all of that, but Silver at least doesn’t seem to think much will change. It seems doubtful that many players will disagree with him.
Thon Maker Learning and Growing at adidas Nations
If you haven’t heard of Thon Maker yet, you will very soon. ESPN.com named Maker the No. 1 prospect from the high school class of 2016, though there’s a chance that he could choose to reclassify and bring himself one year closer to NCAA basketball, where he’d still be considered among the most highly sought after prospects in his class.
The list of colleges that have shown interest in Maker is longer than this stringy arms, and already getting sucked into that decision-making process, he says, has proven to be challenging.
“It’s very hard, especially if you form some relationships with some of those teams,” Maker told Basketball Insiders at adidas Nations. “You’re breaking their hearts by cutting them out. It’s hard.”
Maker has been all over the place this summer, but at adidas Nations, where he plays for the U.S. team, he’s been given the experience to play against some top-level competition, which he says has been educational.
“I’ve learned a lot,” he said. “I’ve allowed myself to always get exposed wherever I go to see what I definitely need to work on, not what other people think I need to work on.”
And what he needs to work on, aside from his lanky 210-pound frame, is “decision-making and communication,” Maker admitted.
“Some mistakes that other coaches let go, you don’t get a chance to correct those,” Maker explained. “You get runs in, you get to make mistakes and show your skills as the same time, but you still have to get back in the gym and work on some things.”
Maker will play a ton of basketball between now and his first college game a year or two down the road, but all these exhibitions and scrimmages are helping him to be a better player.
“It’s hard, but I just have to take care of my body, eat the right kinds of foods, take a lot of fluids,” Maker said with a grin after one particular grueling scrimmage at adidas Nations.
He knows it’ll only get harder from here, but one of the nation’s most exciting young recruits should welcome that challenge. It appears that Maker has a good attitude about what lies ahead, and he should. The world’s his oyster, and adidas Nations is the kind of experience that sharpens his shucking knife.
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