Adam Silver: 'Major shift' unlikely

ByMarc Stein ESPN logo
Monday, August 4, 2014

Commissioner Adam Silver says he does not foresee "a major shift in the NBA's participation in international competitions" in the wake of Paul George's gruesome compound leg fracture suffered Friday night in Las Vegas.

But in a statement Sunday night to ESPN, Silver acknowledged that George's severe injury, which is expected to cost the Indiana Pacers' All-Star forward his entire 2014-15 season, will reopen the debate leaguewide about the merits of the game's biggest stars and highest-paid veterans playing in international tournaments, such as the forthcoming FIBA Basketball World Cup starting Aug. 30 in Spain.

"Without a doubt, basketball has grown tremendously since 1992, when NBA players began playing in the Olympics," Silver said. "Also, it's important to note the [improvement] many of our players have made in terms of ability, leadership and passion for the game by playing for their home countries. Injuries can happen anyplace at any time. The experiences our players have enjoyed by participating in their national teams, however, are ones that are unique and special in almost every other way. At this point, I don't anticipate a major shift in the NBA's participation in international competitions.

"It seems clear, however, that this will be a topic at our next NBA competition committee meeting in September and our board of governors meeting in October. And, of course, we will continue to evaluate the pros and cons of participating in international tournaments."

George suffered by far the most serious injury in the modern history of USA Basketball -- which began with the introduction of the original Dream Team in 1992 -- when his right leg landed and then folded at the base of a basket stanchion after he fouled James Harden on a drive just 27 seconds into the fourth quarter of Friday night's intrasquad scrimmage.

The catastrophic development for the Pacers prompted Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban to renew his call for the NBA and its players to organize their own quadrennial competition separate from the sport's international governing body.

Cuban told on Saturday: "The [International Olympic Committee] is playing the NBA. The IOC is an organization that has been rife with corruption, to the point where a member was accused of trying to fix an Olympic event in Salt Lake. The IOC [pulls in] billions of dollars. They make a killing and make Tony Soprano look like a saint. The pros in multiple sports are smart enough to not play when they are eligible free agents. But teams take on huge financial risk so that the IOC committee members can line their pockets. The greatest trick ever played was the IOC convincing the world that the Olympics were about patriotism and national pride instead of money. The players and owners should get together and create our own World Cup of Basketball."

Then on Sunday, after Silver's statement, Cuban followed up with this tweet:

When considering FIBA/Olympic events ask who gets paid. Players=No. NBA=No FIBA/IOC=YES. Ask the people making money of us what they think

- Mark Cuban (@mcuban) August 4, 2014Cuban has long been known as the NBA's most outspoken critic of international basketball largely because NBA teams assume the bulk of the financial risk in the event of an injury such as George's, while neither the league nor the players tangibly profit from participation. But as Silver's statement suggests, it's believed that the serious nature of what happened to Indiana's best player -- even if it's just a random accident -- will prompt more teams to join Cuban in raising these questions, though he's been on a virtual island to date in terms of his willingness to make his position public.

The Pacers themselves, though, have refused to lash out after potentially losing George for the entire first season of his new five-year, $92 million maximum contract that kicks in this coming season.

In a statement issued Saturday, Pacers president Larry Bird said: "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."

One option is revisiting the proposal former NBA commissioner David Stern unsuccessfully tried to introduce before the 2012 London Games, when Stern advocated turning the men's Olympic basketball tournament into an under-23 event, as seen in world soccer.

Since taking over for Stern in February, Silver has repeatedly reiterated the league's long-standing desire to try to make basketball the world's No. 1 sport, which is one of the prime motivations for the NBA to keep sending players to international events.

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