USA Basketball Still Needs Paul George To Stay Ahead Of The Game

Team USA
Team USA
Stephen R Sylvanie USA TODAY Sports

Most estimates have Paul George sidelined for at least the next season stemming from the gruesome leg injury he suffered in an otherwise meaningless scrimmage between Team USA mates in Las Vegas early Friday night. The pain and fallout stemming from it all could be much more lingering for USA basketball.

Even before George went down, outspoken Mavs owner Mark Cuban was already on record in asserting he was not a fan of the practice of legally-obligated NBA players putting their bodies and their employees’ astronomical investments in them under such added and unnecessary risk.

So vehement has Cuban been, it seems fair to wonder if he might have been in such a giving mood if this had all gone down prior to the recent signing of the three-year, $46 million deal he negotiated with George’s World Cup teammate Chandler Parsons if he had known the latter was planning to join the former in Spain this summer.

“The greatest trick ever played was the International Olympic Committee convincing the world that the Olympics were about patriotism and national pride instead of money,” Cuban told ESPN. “The players and owners should get together and create our own World Cup of Basketball.”

As a Hall of Fame sharpshooter, longtime Pacers GM, and original 1992 Dream Teamer, Larry Bird feels he more than knows the score, and as such elected to be as deliberate as he was diplomatic in voicing his words about Paul’s misstep.

“Our first thoughts are with Paul and his family,” he said in a statement. “It is way too early to speculate on his return as the No. 1 priority for everyone will be his recovery… There is no question about the impact on our team but our goal is to be as strong-willed and determined as Paul will be in coming back…We still support USA Basketball and believe in the NBA’s goals of exposing our game, our teams and players worldwide.”

George came to Vegas without any previous international experience, but was not only considered a shoo-in to make the roster but an almost certain starter. “We all just want to get better,” George told reporters earlier this week. “We all love the game of basketball. It’s another opportunity to get better and work on some things and improve on things going into next season.”

But now, the twists and turns that define fate’s often fragile nature have come calling for Paul George in the cruelest of ways. And the repercussions could be game changing.

“We just want, we need to step away,” said USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo. “This is a very tough blow, not so much about us, but about Paul, it’s a first for us in USA basketball to have something like this take place.”

While it would be as unfair as George’s injury was cruel to point any accusatory fingers at Colangelo, Team USA, or anyone else even remotely associated with putting on the exhibition, it can be argued his words missed the mark by just a bit.

Clippers’ star forward Blake Griffin suffered a torn meniscus in the 2012 play that sidelined him for three months and, just in terms of NBA players competing in international competitions, Pau Gasol broke his foot while playing for Spain in 2006 in the world championships and Manu Ginobili damaged his ankle while playing for Argentina in the 2008 Olympics.

“Anything can happen anywhere, a lot of things happen,” said Coach Mike Krzyzewski. “Tonight it happened during a basketball game. We need to take care of that. It doesn’t mean it’ll happen again and again and again; it means that it happened right now. And we need to take care of right now appropriately and then move on.”

All the while, thinking of and praying for Paul George.

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Glenn Minnis
Glenn Minnis is an XN Sports NBA contributor. He has written for the Chicago Tribune, ESPN, BET and AOL. Follow him on Twitter at @glennnyc.