Soon after he left the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas on a stretcher, Indiana Pacers forward Paul George had late-night surgery to repair a tibia and fibula fracture on his right leg. There was no additional damage beyond the fracture, and the procedure was successful. That said, he is expected to miss the 2014-15 NBA season. George is expected to be hospitalized for three days according to a statement by USA Basketball, via Michael Lee of the Washington Post.
George's injury certainly raises questions about how much control the NBA teams should have on whether players should be allowed to play in future FIBA World Cups and/or the Olympics. Currently, the agreement between the NBA and FIBA is that players choose on their own whether they want to play internationally.
However, the teams they play on can block the player from participating if he is healing from injury or has a history of them. This is why the San Antonio Spurs barred Manu Ginobili from participating for Team Argentina, since he was recovering from a right leg stress fracture, right after they won the 2014 NBA Finals.
I can see why NBA team owners and coaches may not want to see their best players risking themselves to injuries on the court during international games. After all, NBA teams pay millions of dollars for their players to produce on the court, and to win games for them during the season.
Still, despite George's injury, I don't believe that NBA players should be barred from playing in the FIBA World Cup or the Olympics, whether now, or in the future. I'll also add that I don't want to see international men's basketball tournaments turn into a U-23 format like it has for men's soccer in the Olympics. If the best players available want to play on the team, they should be allowed to do so. SB Nation's Tom Ziller has another take which I wholeheartedly agree with.
Yes, George unfortunately suffered a terrible injury. And yes, that basketball stanchion was way too close, at least for NBA standards. But George wasn't known as a particularly injury-prone player to this point. And he chose to play for his country, like the other players who are trying to be on the World Cup team. The injury was just about as badly timed as it could have been.
You don't have to take my word for it. Pacers President of Basketball Operations Larry Bird also concurs:
We still support USA Basketball and believe in the NBA's goals of exposing our game, our teams and players worldwide. This is an extremely unfortunate injury that occurred on a highly-visible stage, but could also have occurred anytime, anywhere.
At some point in the next several days, we will find out if John Wall and/or Bradley Beal make it past initial cuts. If they get past them, we will eventually see if they can make the final World Cup team. And every time Wall, Beal, or anyone else is out on the floor, we have to acknowledge that there's always the risk of an injury.
But like Bird said above, anyone can get injured, anytime. Competitions like the FIBA World Cup and the Olympics help expand the global reach that basketball has in a different way than the NBA can. It's just really unfortunate that George's injury happened during a nationally televised scrimmage for an international competition.
So now, I bring this to you all, BF Community. Do you think that NBA players should still have the choice as to whether they want to play in international competitions like the FIBA World Cup or the Olympics? Or should the NBA institute harder limits on how many players go to these competitions? Look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments below.