When something like Paul George’s horrendous injury happens, some rush to judgement and have a desire for resolution or grandiose statements about what it could mean. I will refrain from all of that.
Paul George suffering a freak injury during a televised scrimmage does not change the likelihood of something like that happening in a similar event or in some other basketball activity moving forward. It just raises awareness of that possibility and potentially could actually lead to some positive changes in terms of on-court player safety.
Those who try to make analogies to the World Cup are trying to make fetch happen. For a large proportion of American players, international basketball and the FIBA World Cup just are not the most important parts of the hoops universe for them. That is their right and it would be fine if some or all players embraced playing for their country like so many other athletes in other sports. In the interim, the solution should be readily apparent even if some are uncomfortable with holding back on their hot takes.
The endgame in terms of international basketball is shockingly simple: celebrate those who choose to participate without vilifying those who choose not to. We have seen the potentially huge benefits of these events and more importantly the practices and everything else that go into them at various points in recent time from the legendary Dream Team practices to the rumored birth of the Heatles to increases in confidence for future MVPs Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose. If an individual wants to take advantage of some or all of that, awesome. Put them on a Wheaties box and show how much we appreciate them doing so. All it takes is losing the potshots taken publically and privately against those who make a different choice. While I wish players like Kevin Love made their decisions earlier because of how a late pullout affects a national team, each person has the right to act in their own self-interest.
We will inevitably see some argue that professionals should not play internationally or that teams should be able to hold their players out. Limiting the field to one subset of individuals takes away some players’ ability to grow from the experience unnecessarily. Team USA creating a pool of talent can work beautifully here as they can just create a group of the best players who are interested in representing their country and work with who shows up regardless of where they play at any given moment. The United States has the good fortune of having enough elite talent to succeed without shaming those who turn the opportunity down for whatever reason.
The one concrete change I would like to see coming out of this incident is one many of us in the media have railed on for years: get everyone back off the baselines. As someone who has covered the Warriors with a press credential for five seasons, it has become a sadly common occurrence for there to be some sort of incident that inspires this reaction like a turned ankle or rougher than necessary fall. Sadly, my experience leads me to believe that the reason the stanchion and photographers are as close as they continue to be is not because it helps lead to a better product in any way, shape or form. Rather, those people and devices have to be closer to the action than the fans who sit directly behind them and teams want to maximize their revenue from those lucrative seats. At this point, enough is enough and it is time for a change. Move everything back and design future arenas with this understanding if teams want to maintain their current seat totals. The league has already had enough major wins in CBA negotiations to make profitability a far more likely result and should immediately take this small but useful step to eliminate the most preventable kind of player injury.
Obviously this injury carries major impacts for the Indiana Pacers and most importantly Paul George himself. Once we have a clearer idea of the exact injury and a recovery timetable, those topics can and will receive plenty of attention. For right now, I wish Paul George the absolute best while hoping for a full and complete recovery.