USA Basketball is moving forward in the wake of Paul George's injury and will reconvene in Chicago next Thursday. The team announced three cuts earlier this week which included Atlanta Hawks power forward Paul Millsap. The Hawks still have hope however, as Kyle Korver remains in the running and some people think he has a very good chance of sticking on the final 12-man roster as a three-point specialist off the bench.
Given George's injury and the serious blow dealt to the Pacers, some question whether or not Korver's inclusion would be a good thing. The AJC's Jeff Schultz wrote just such a column yesterday questioning Korver's inclusion, and the inclusion of pro athletes in general, in Olympic competition.
Schultz cites that the NBA owners are paying the salaries of the players who are risking their health for USA Basketball. It's a sentiment that has been shared publicly by Mavericks' owner Mark Cuban for years now. Quite naturally USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo defended the player's participation saying that they felt an honor in playing for their country.
The point that Schultz misses here is that these guys are basketball players and what they do is play basketball. That doesn't stop when the NBA season ends as preparations for next season begin immediately. For a number of NBA players that preparation began at The Skill Factory in Atlanta where they work out and, gasp...... play in live basketball games against other NBA caliber talent. The AJC's own Chris Vivlamore did a story earlier this summer on a number of Hawks including Paul Millsap and Rockets guard James Harden training at The Skill Factory. I don't remember Schultz writing a column speaking out against this.
To be perfectly fair, players training at The Skill Factory are doing so to improve for their own personal reasons. They aren't playing for an organization like USA Basketball or FIBA. However, the risk of injury is the same. Unless you want to put these players in a bubble during the offseason, the risk of injury is and has always been there. It's unfortunate that George's injury took place on the biggest stage in front of a national TV audience at the USA Basketball Showcase but the same thing could have very well happened at any gym across the country or at The Skill Factory in Atlanta. Yet there is no outrage for players training during the summer even if that training often occurs in a full court setting. After all, elevating their games during the offseason benefits the owners.
Mark Cuban may actually fear injury for one of his players in FIBA competition but there is a more underlying dislike here. He also doesn't like another brand profiting from those players while he foots the bill and assumes the majority of risk. That has merit but is another subject all together and, in my opinion, is the biggest concern NBA owners have with summer competition. That, however, shouldn't be hidden behind a false concern over the risk of injury in the aftermath of George's injury.
Korver said it best in Schultz's article when asked if George's injury caused him to think twice about his commitment to USA Basketball: "Not at all. This is what we do. We play basketball."