Culture of Hoops

Why Are Players Pulling Out of Team USA?

Baller Mind Frame’s No Layups brings you the hottest NBA stories mixed with personal opinion from our very own Aaron Lanton. Check it often and absorb the knowledge we’re dropping on you!

Two things were clear immediately after Paul George’s unfortunate leg injury during the nationally televised Team USA scrimmage.

  • Every professional basketball player became aware of their basketball mortality.

The injury could have happened anywhere but it happened where it happened which will impact the narratives of American journalists concerning international basketball. The most significant injury to an NBA star during international play before this was Pau Gasol breaking his foot in 2006; however, Gasol’s injury was not as gruesome and he put up the best stats of his career that season. Besides, players of all sports break feet all the time with varying degrees of success afterwards. Michael Jordan’s playoff record 63-points against the Boston Celtics in 1986 came during the same season that he missed 64 games because of a broken foot (Jordan’s injury during a pickup game led to the “For The Love Of The Game” clause which allowed him to play basketball whenever and wherever he wanted without permission from the team; I won’t bore everyone with the particulars but it’s worth looking up).

He ended up doing okay.

Precedent shows there’s no reason to panic with a broken foot. George’s type of injury has never happened to a star player so this is completely new territory. The consequences for the Indiana Pacers are disheartening, and there’s no guarantee the recovery for George will go smoothly although every diagnosis so far says that injuries we have become accustomed to would have been far more devastating for his career.

That said, every player will think twice before committing to Team USA simply because of where the injury occurred because of elements beyond the court.

  • Star players are less likely to join Team USA because of contract concerns

Like many others, I joined in the chorus of boos when Kevin Love dismissed himself from Team USA because of his “current status” before the team’s initial practices began. Love’s decision was made prior to the agreed upon trade that will send him to the Cleveland Cavaliers. George’s injury drastically changed the tenor of my opinion.

Love could have benefited from playing with Team USA but the risk of something like that happening entering a contract year is something he had to seriously consider. In fact, almost everyone on Team USA is a young player with the chance to sign a max extension in the near future. Should we begrudge players for thinking about their contract situations? No, but we will.

News spread of Kevin Durant’s decision to leave Team USA around 11 PM ET last night, citing mental and physical fatigue. Additionally, Durant has seen the lingering ailments that standard contact can bring firsthand. I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention the gargantuan figure that has been trickling down the grapevine for about a week.

Be it $1 million or $325 million, no one should judge Durant for deciding to pull out of Team USA. He is under no contractual obligation to remain with the team. The complaints should be directed to the International Basketball Federation (FIBA)’s laissez-faire approach to international basketball which allows them to make wads of money without any responsibility to players or professional organizations who pay the player’s base salaries such as the NBA.

Players are going to begin reading extra clauses in new contracts with teams and advertisers that deduct more money from their agreement based on an inability to perform due to injury. The National Football League already has non-guaranteed contracts, but they also have terms in some contracts that take away money if a player can not play a certain amount of games. This is purely speculation on my part but this seems to be where things are headed. What if Derrick Rose can’t stay on the court again?

The Bulls will have paid Rose over $60 million over fours years to miss over 200 games, and Adidas’ 13-year, $185 million deal has paid Rose over $20 million so far. Something has to give. Players will likely ask for more revenue sharing in return, but this is an issue that’s not going away.

Enjoy this star-studded version of Team USA while you can. LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Blake Griffin, Manu Ginobli, Kawhi Leonard, and many others decided not to join international play for a variety of reasons before George’s injury. Stars are not likely to make the trek again.  We shouldn’t judge them for that, but we will.

Featured image courtesy of Bryan Horowitz/Flickr.

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