Adam Silver: International play a 'risk'

Updated: August 21, 2014, 3:56 PM ET
By Ohm Youngmisuk | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- With nearly three weeks to mull the circumstance and consequences surrounding Paul George's leg injury, NBA commissioner Adam Silver says he fully understands the risk the league's players are taking in playing for their countries this summer leading up to FIBA World Cup.

But Silver reiterated that it's still up to NBA stars to make the personal decision to play for one's country.

"It is a big risk without enormous financial reward," Silver said when asked about a sentiment shared by outspoken Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban during a "Commitment to Service" news conference to discuss a collaboration with the U.S. Department of Defense at Madison Square Garden.

[+] EnlargePaul George
AP Photo/John LocherThe topic of NBA stars playing in international competition continues to be a hot button issue three weeks after Paul George suffered a two-part compound fracture to his lower right leg.

"But I am sitting next to our highest ranking military official," Silver said of General Martin Dempsey." I'm almost embarrassed to be talking about the risk that our players face compared to what our men and women in uniform face."

The topic of the NBA's best and highest-paid stars playing internationally continues to be a hot button issue after George suffered a two-part compound fracture to his lower right leg during a Team USA basketball intrasquad scrimmage in Las Vegas on Aug. 1.

"I'll only reiterate that ultimately it is a personal decision for these players," Silver said. "I should point out that it is not just U.S. players we are referring to. Collectively we have close to 50 NBA players participating in this World Cup on behalf of their national teams."

Team USA played an exhibition against the Dominican Republic at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night with many of its stars sitting this summer's competition out for various reasons.

Kevin Durant pulled out earlier this month and other stars like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love and Blake Griffin are not playing.

Silver said he isn't concerned about whether some of the NBA's best need more incentive to play in non-Olympic years.

"No concern," Silver said. "It is an individual player decision and for these young men we recognize that playing in the NBA is a job and they have responsibilities to their team and their teammates as well. Ultimately they have to make that very personal decision as to whether they want to play in the summer, whether it makes sense for their bodies, whether it makes sense for their families."

The recovery period for George's injury is expected to keep him out for the coming season for the Indiana Pacers.

"Ultimately, there is risk as I commented on Paul George earlier," Silver said. "I am enormously sympathetic to him and his family because of his injury. But as he said himself, he had no second thoughts about having participated.

"[Pacers president] Larry Bird said it well: Injuries happen. In sports, it could have happened outside the context of our national team as well. To the extent that players are participating, it is the very best coaching in the world, the very best trainers and very best facilities. On balance, there are various factors to be weighed, they come out better young men as a result of having participating in these events."

Cuban has been critical of superstars playing in international competition while the NBA assumes the financial risk.

"The [International Olympic Committee] is playing the NBA," Cuban told ESPN.com's Marc Stein earlier this month. "The IOC is an organization that has been rife with corruption, to the point where a member was accused of trying to fix an Olympic event in Salt Lake. The IOC [pulls in] billions of dollars. They make a killing and make Tony Soprano look like a saint.

"The pros in multiple sports are smart enough to not play when they are eligible free agents. But teams take on huge financial risk so that the IOC committee members can line their pockets.

"The greatest trick ever played was the IOC convincing the world that the Olympics were about patriotism and national pride instead of money. The players and owners should get together and create our own World Cup of Basketball."

In the aftermath of the injury, Silver said he expected the league's decision-makers to continue the discussion of the NBA's superstars competing on the international level.

"I do anticipate it will be a hot topic at the competition meeting and the Board of Governors meeting just because it always has been," Silver said. "We are always evaluating and re-evaluating everything we do, it is a part of running any business."

Ohm Youngmisuk has covered the Giants, Jets and the NFL since 2006. Prior to that, he covered the Nets, Knicks and the NBA for nearly a decade. He joined ESPNNewYork.com after working at the New York Daily News for almost 12 years and is a graduate of Michigan State University.
Follow him on Twitter »  Ohm's chat archive »

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