Debate Over NBA's Involvement In Olympics Reignited After Blake Griffin's Injury
Clippers F Blake Griffin is not expected to miss the start of the NBA season after tearing the meniscus in his left knee, but he “will not be playing for the U.S. Olympic basketball team in London this summer,” according to Broderick Turner of the L.A. TIMES. USA Basketball Chair Jerry Colangelo on Thursday said that Griffin's injury “might have been related to the All-Star's being injured during the playoffs.” Turner notes Griffin had been “given a clean bill of health after he took a physical Tuesday in Los Angeles, before he signed his five-year, $95-million contract extension.” Meanwhile, Clippers G Chris Paul “sprained his right thumb during the first day of workouts with Team USA.” But Paul still “started for the U.S. on Thursday night against the Dominican Republic” (L.A. TIMES, 7/13). Griffin's injury has reignited the debate as to whether NBA players should compete in the Olympics. Comcast SportsNet New England's Donny Marshall noted Griffin on Tuesday signed a five-year, $95M extension with the Clippers, and while the team understands he wants to play for Team USA, the "longevity of this guy to that organization is much more important than a summer of basketball.” NBC Sports Network's Erik Kuselias said, “When you give someone $95 million dollars, their obligation is to you first.” Marshall: “Basketball is a business” (“NBC Sports Talk,” NBC Sports Network, 7/12). NBA.com's Sekou Smith notes concerns about players "staying healthy is no doubt going to be a hot topic among owners and players as summer league action heats up here and international exhibitions take place all over the globe." Team USA F LeBron James said, "That only comes up when somebody gets hurt. Honestly, you could get hurt doing anything" (NBA.com, 7/13).
DOES RISK OUTWEIGH THE REWARD? and ESPN.com's J.A. Adande wrote the alliance between the NBA and USA Basketball "should go on, even if more players get hurt." Adande: "If you want great teams, they need the chance to develop into exactly that: a team. That means they'll have to take chances on injuries." No players on previous U.S. teams "have suffered injuries under USA Basketball's watch in the past." Colangelo said, "Somebody has to put some value on what USA Basketball has done for the NBA. I think the players are better people for participating, they end up being better players for the experience, they've brought more value to their franchises and it's been great for the NBA" (ESPN.com, 7/12). But ESPN’s Skip Bayless said Griffin's injury is "another painful, yet glaring, example of why it pains me time after time to see NBA stars risk injury and risk wear and tear that could lead to more injury next NBA season just to prove once again we have the greatest basketball players in the world." NBA team owners quietly "seethe over this because they are paying hundreds of millions of guaranteed dollars to players who spend ridiculous chunks of their offseason to go prove yet again that the good ol’ U.S. of A can dominate world basketball.” ESPN’s Rob Parker said of USA Basketball using NBAers, “The thrill is gone. Even with the little taste we got last night against the Dominican Republic, it’s a waste of time. I’m like, ‘Are you serious? Do we really have to have this?’ … What are we trying to prove here? … It not only hampers the players, but also them moving forward and them playing in the pros as far as risk of injury” (“First Take,” ESPN2, 7/13).
TEAM AMERICA, WORLD POLICE: Colangelo appeared on ESPN's coverage of the Dominican Republic-U.S. exhibition game Thursday night and said, "We’re getting our feet wet a little bit and we need this. We needed some competition.” ESPN's Mark Jones said Colangelo has been able to "make it almost in vogue that players want to participate in USA Basketball.” Colangelo: “It was basically a situation where I expressed my passion and the reason I was interested in doing it. I wanted commitments from people who wanted to be a part of changing the culture, and they bought into it and it's been pretty good.” Jones asked, “Is there a next level for USA Basketball?” Colangelo said, “That remains to be seen. There’s speculation and talk about age limits for the Olympics. That’s a long way from being a done deal. ... Right now, we have a great program. I will tell you what makes me feel good: All of our junior teams are Gold Medalists. The pipeline is absolutely full. These are all the future college stars and the future NBA stars. When you have this kind of a system going, I’d hate to tinker with it” (“Dominican Republic-U.S.,” ESPN, 7/12).