Some random thoughts

1) Paul George’s injury Friday night was gruesome. Thankfully, it seems, there are no larger adverse health consequences and others who’ve suffered similar injuries – like Kevin Ware – have made full recoveries. Hopefully, George will be similarly fortunate.

I confess that I found the coverage of the injury, particularly on ESPN, to be over the top. I first heard about it as I was driving home Friday night and based on the initial tone of the reports, I worried that George’s injury was life-threatening. It became apparent, by the time I got home and watched on ESPN, that the injury was a catastrophic one in sports terms, but not a life-threatening one. ESPN’s coverage, however, was consistent with a fatal or near fatal injury. I know Friday nights this time of year are slow news times, and the folks on air struck a respectful and serious tone. It was absolutely appropriate for Coach K to call the scrimmage off after the injury and completely understandable that George’s teammates wold have reacted as strongly and viscerally as they did. Something just rankled, though, about what felt like a morbid sensationalism to the network’s approach.

2) A number of commentators have criticized the Cardinals for acquiring John Lackey at the deadline. The gist of the criticism is that the Cardinals’ problem this year is in scoring runs, not in preventing them. In fact, only the Padres have scored fewer runs. By contrast, the Cards are in the middle of the pack in the National League in runs against.

This logic is funny, though, and one hears it all the time. The goal of every game is the same – to score more than your opponent does (and this, of course, applies to basketball, football, hockey, soccer and so on). Unless the Cards were giving up so few runs that they could not improve that side of the equation, there is no reason in principle why they shouldn’t try to get better however they could. Think of it another way. As of now, St. Louis has scored 409 runs this year and given up 407. Can anyone deny that their record would be better if they’d scored 409 runs to this point, and only given up 387, instead of 407?

Whether John Lackey performs well from here on out is a separate question. But if the best player the Cards could acquire at the trading deadline was one who could prevent an extra 15 runs between now and the end of the season; and, by contrast, if the best offensive player they could have acquired would only have added, say, 7 net runs between now and October, aren’t they obviously better off trading for Lackey than for offensive player X?

Again, this kind of logic pervades player personnel analysis. Once a team is deemed better at scoring than playing defense, or vice versa, it somehow follows that the team is now good enough on one side of the ball. But unless a team is essentially perfect on offense or defense, in whatever sport, there is really no such thing as “good enough.” You can always improve your chances of winning by improving your scoring differential.

3) in the aftermath of the George injury, Mark Cuban’s longstanding criticism of the IOC, FIBA and international basketball competitions is getting a lot of play.

Here’s some of what he had to say:

“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.”

Nice nod there at the end (“the greatest trick ever played”) to the IOC as the actual devil. You’ll get no argument from me about the hypocrisy and corruption of the IOC. But two things are being conflated here. One is whether the NBA teams, since they pay the players, should have greater control over their property – including for whom they play in what is normally understood as their spare time (i.e., the off-season). A second is whether extra play compromises a player’s health and makes catastrophic injury more likely. On the latter point, as the ever reasonable Brian Windhorst has been pointing out, the injury was a fluke and a rarity. But if you don’t want NBA players participating in international competitions because they might get hurt, then Cuban’s proposal to bring such competitions under NBA control make no sense.

Cuban’s beef, as far as I can tell, is because the Pacers owe George millions of dollars for the coming season, one in which he won’t play because he was volunteering his services for a corrupt global enterprise. I understand why that sticks in his craw as a businessman. But he’s not thundering away against the international basketball mafia because he doesn’t want players to get hurt. He just wants a return for what he regards as the added risk to his assets of playing extra competitions.



    1. It’s a good question. It’s been pointed out recently that players sometimes see it as in their interest to participate in international competitions to improve their brands. If players negotiate a CBA that stipulates their pay only covers the regular season (with stipends for preseason) then so be it. But it makes especially hard to take owners’ whining about their risk if players get hurt off the field.

  1. What if a guy like Bryant or James, wanted to play for a check before the NBA season started, I would be all for that. Somehow, the players don’t negotiated for that right. They have bought in on what the owners have put forth in regards of who generates the revenue. From a fan’s perspective, it confuses me when I hear other fans whine about player’s wanting more money. Fans should be on the side of labor since they are for the most the laborers. I agree that the players negotiated it, then they must act as such but I wouldn’t be mad if a player “crossed the line”

  2. Andrew – thanks for the link. Spot on. Cuban, in fact, wants the kids to be in college longer. Of course, the difference is that he is not yet paying them, so what does he care if they suffer career-altering injuries when he’s not on the hook for their salaries?

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