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Heading into the start of the World Cup tournament in just two weeks, Paul George remains at the heart of Team USA’s vaunted attack. And the fact that the sidelined Indiana Pacers’ All-Star forward can’t take the court and probably won’t be able to before the start of the 2015-16 NBA season stands to have little bearing on that.
The only thing more on the collective minds and guiding the spirits of the squad that will be heading to Spain later this month is the ultimate well-being of the now fallen George. So alive and vibrant is that way of thinking, when the team takes the court for its first exhibition game since George suffered his leg fracture they will all be donning patches honoring him across their chests. George has also been promised a spot on the 2016 Olympic team that will compete in Rio de Janeiro.
In overwhelming numbers, players have held firm in their commitment to Team USA, even as some league owners have staunchly voiced their opposition to the whole concept of NBA players competing in such high-stakes, gold medal showdowns that offer no reward or payoff to the pro franchises that pay their hefty salaries.
Long outspoken Mavs owner Mark Cuban has led the chorus, recently telling ESPN “if you look up stupid in the dictionary you see a picture of the USA Dream team playing for free for corporate America so the U.S. Olympic Committee can make billions of dollars. So,if you come up with something that you own that you can give to me for free so I can make billions of dollars, I want it. It has nothing to do with patriotism and it’s all about money.”
As Team USA’s Basketball managing director, Jerry Colangelo certainly doesn’t agree with all of Cuban’s acidic assertions, but as someone who once owned an NBA franchise for nearly two decades he at least understands some of his frustrations.
“I get it,” said Colangelo. “I understand it. I know how valuable the players are. But these guys are going to play whether they’re with us or they come back here and play in pick-up games. I’ve lost players in summer leagues… in the regular season, in pick-up games. That’s part of the game. Anyone who’s played knows that’s part of game.”
Speaking with the media on Friday for the first time since going down in Las Vegas late last month, George vowed to make a full recovery, adding “I’m ready to embrace everything that comes with being one of the young stars in the league. I’m not looking at this as something negative for my career.”
Since reconvening their practices in Chicago this week, Sacramento Kings star center DeMarcus Cousins has also suffered a knee injury, though an MRI has since shown it to be insignificant and the source of no structural damage.
As Bulls’ star Derrick Rose, who used his stint as the starting point guard on the 2010 FIBA World Championships as a springboard to becoming the youngest MVP in league history sprinted up and down the hardwood, coach Mike Krzyzewski opined “USA Basketball helps basketball.
“For these guys, they get better by being involved,” he added. “It’s shown up the last eight years. Guys who’ve played have had great years. They haven’t gotten tired.”
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