A year after George's injury, US set for another exhibition
LAS VEGAS (AP) Paul George's broken leg in a USA Basketball exhibition game here last year shook up teammates and renewed the debate about whether NBA players should even be competing internationally in the offseason.
It didn't change how the Americans plan their summer program.
The Americans will wrap up their minicamp Thursday with another intrasquad exhibition, a game with lower intensity than last year and, they hope, no injuries.
USA Basketball's contract with Las Vegas mandates some type of game, but the Americans would've played one anyway, even after George's gruesome injury last year that sidelined him nearly all season.
''Games have to be part of the camp. They just have to be like a culmination, and when you've had one injury in 10 years, I don't think that's reason or logic to change what you have in the way of a good program,'' USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said. ''Unfortunate as it was, I'd like to hope and believe we don't have another one for the next 10 years. So that's not going to change how we do business.''
It was still unclear as of Wednesday afternoon how many of the more than 30 players in camp would play Thursday, but Colangelo said the Americans would come up with around 20.
Whoever plays will be told not to go hard as George did.
The Indiana Pacers star was attempting to block a fast-break layup by James Harden with 9:33 left in the fourth quarter when his leg smashed against the bottom of the backboard stanchion and crumpled. The remainder of the game was called off, with many teammates too upset to continue.
''At that moment, when you see one of the better players in the league, one of your teammates, go down like that, it kind of puts you in this mood where you don't want to play basketball,'' U.S. forward Anthony Davis said.
Kevin Durant would soon withdraw from the Basketball World Cup, the losses of those two players leaving the Americans without what was expected to be their starting forwards. They recovered to win the world title in Spain, and coach Mike Krzyzewski denied that staging another game Thursday was a way for the Americans to get back on the horse.
''We got back on the horse in Bilbao, Barcelona, and Madrid. If we didn't get back on the horse, we'd be qualifying for the Olympics this summer,'' Krzyzewski said. ''We don't have to come back to Vegas to get back on the horse, we got on the horse right away and thank goodness that Paul has recovered really well from that. It was a quirky thing, so we're just thankful that we haven't had a lot of quirky things happen.''
But they've happened plenty in international play, to star players such as Pau Gasol and Manu Ginobili to Utah's Dante Exum, who tore his knee recently playing for Australia in a warmup game before its upcoming Olympic qualifier. Another injury Thursday would further enrage some owners who don't want their players taking the risk, but it seems the Americans won't be going hard enough to hurt themselves Thursday - at least on defense.
''This is to entertain the fans, do what you do best,'' Colangelo said. ''We want it to be an NBA All-Star format, which is almost a non-contact kind of a game.''
Krzyzewski said players would be warned not to try to contest a breakaway, as George did, but he expected a high-level of play.
''A lot of the young guys who haven't been here, they'll play their butts off. They want to show,'' Krzyzewski said. ''So we're not saying don't play hard. That'd be a disservice to the people who are coming.''