It didn’t take a doctor to realize the severity of Paul George’s injury—an eye test told us all we needed. But it’s less apparent what ripples the incident will cause when it comes to international play. Outside of outrage where court layouts are concerned, it’s been proposed that NBA front offices will be more quick to refuse their star players participation in USA Basketball. Pacers president Larry Bird, always the man with icebergs running through his veins and the man with most to be angry about post-PG injury, reacted to the incident with much needed perspective.
In a statement released to the public, Bird made clear that the Pacers, as an organization, will continue to support international competition:
“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.”
Not much more needs to be said.
Like other GMs, there’s not much Bird could do, anyway, as an existing deal with FIBA wouldn’t allow for players to be barred from participating unless they had a reasonable medical concern going in, which likely involves a medical exam as a means of arbitration.
Even if something were to be worked out with FIBA, the logistics would quickly become hard to navigate. At what level of non-superstar talent would front offices deem a player need to be to be able to play international ball, and wouldn’t the very act of letting them participate tell them that their health isn’t as valuable as that of their teammates refused entry?
Plus, as the Spurs have shown, exposing the game to international audiences allows for the propagation of play overseas. Something that makes for improved international players which are contributing ever greatly to the NBA’s game at home. Also, international scrimmages, competition, and exhibitions are the best way to draw more people to the beautiful game of basketball. Taking an isolationist stance would only hurt NBA owner’s bottomline in the long run.
As a former member of the Dream Team himself, Bird knows the importance of USA Basketball for the development of the league, the game, and that of its participating players. That’s surely playing into his cool hand as someone else in his predicament might have taken a sly jab at international competition. But Larry Legend’s aim was always true.