Paul George Injury May Provide Tipping Point for International Play

Paul George may be out of surgery, but he’s not yet out of the clear.

He’ll miss all of the 2014-2015 season with the Indiana Pacers, which is likely to impact their chance to grab the NBA Championship trophy.

But his year-long recovery’s not the only issue on the minds of the NBA. While Paul George’s teammates were wishing him well and praying that the injury wouldn’t be as bad as they believed, team owners and GMs were gathering for an entirely different reason. Adrian Wojnarowski took to Twitter to use the Paul George injury to discuss a bigger political issue within the sport:

“Owners and GMs united tonight: Paul George injury could be tipping point for use of stars in international play. ‘Game-changer,’ GM told me.”

Up until this point, it’s been the decision of NBA players as to whether or not they want to play internationally with the USA Dream Team in basketball (or for some other country, provided that it doesn’t clash with their currently signed contract deal). With Paul George’s injury in an international scrimmage, however, the “powers that be” are now coming together to use a random injury that could happen anywhere (even during the NBA regular season) to deny players a freedom they’ve had and take away a privilege all because of the implications of a player injury.

Take the Indiana Pacers, for example. Losing Paul George means that their season will take a hit. It’s not a hit that many were hoping for, seeing that, with any NBA team, the team’s eyes are set on the top prize. Paul George was a valuable contributor to the Pacer effort, and his absence will indeed be felt in this coming season. And, it’ll also prove to be an adjustment for Paul George, seeing that he won’t suit up to play again before another two years. He’ll likely wonder, if, at some point in the back of his mind, whether he’s “still got it” after sitting on the sidelines day in and day out. This doesn’t approach the questions about his injury and how or when it’ll heal.

But, apart from this, it’s no secret that team owners and GMs are not interested in players’ rights; rather, the politics of the sport for team owners and GMs are all about how much financial profit they can make off the players they sign. They see paying their players as a financial investment: provided that the players play on the court for so many years (3 or 4-year deal, for example), the team owners stand to make certain billions of dollars from the contract. When you think about press interviews, advertisements, billboards, jerseys, shoes, and all the basketball sport commodities made and sold within a year, it’s a lot of money for team owners – who can’t handle an injury that’ll chip into their supposed profit increase.

And yet, it’s unfortunate that the Paul George injury will be a random reason (although a powerful one) to see the end of players’ rights when it comes to international play. It’s sorta like the parent who uses a recent car accident of a friend to tell his or her child not to go on a long, two-week summer vacation because “it could happen to you.” Except, in the case of team owners, the restrictions may become part of new contracts that players must sign to reinforce their position on a team and in the eyes of their coach, teammates, and managers.

The biggest issue right now should be to pray for Paul George and his family, and that he’d be able to heal. Unfortunately, the Paul George injury gives the NBA at least a year to decide whether or not it wants to change the rules. If it does, then Paul George may find himself in a different world when he steps back on the court (if he does) for the 2015-2016 season.