Should the Spurs restrict players from international play in offseason?

Written by Benjamin Bornstein

If you enjoy watching basketball, especially practices and scrimmages, then you were probably watching the “USA Basketball Showcase” the other night. Now, it was a fairly inconsequential game until the beginning of the fourth quarter. I would normally link a video here, but the scene was so gruesome, I don’t want to force you to watch it. What happened was Paul George was racing back on defense to contest an open layup and went up with Kevin Durant. However, he came back down on his foot rather awkwardly and got it caught between the ground and the stanchion, and his shin went 90 degrees the wrong way.

That’s not the main point of this article, but it does lead to the question: should San Antonio and other teams bar their players from international play in the offseason? This decision would undoubtedly affect the Spurs a little more than others, as their roster is built by a majority of foreign players who are good enough to play for their respective countries. Manu Ginobili has already experienced this a little bit with his lower leg fracture, and he has been told by the Spurs to not play more ball this offseason. Tony Parker and Boris Diaw usually play for France (though Parker is resting this summer), Tiago Splitter plays for his native Brazil, while Marco Belinelli plays for Italy, Cory Joseph plays for Canada, and Patty Mills plays for Australia.

The Spurs haven’t come out and said anything about the issue, but they would certainly have a case to deny their players extra miles on their basketball engines as head coach Gregg Popovich is a big proponent of minutes management (he did lead the team to the playoffs and championship without playing a guy over 30 minutes a game). He would probably squeal with joy if he knew his guys were only in the gym working out or getting proper rest at home. However, I don’t believe the Spurs organization would ever outright veto a player’s right to play for their country unless he had a pre-existing injury (like Manu’s) heading into the offseason. This will surely spark debate among the league and its members, but don’t expect much progress to be made toward getting amateurs to do the job or getting the “non-superstars” involved. Commissioner Adam Silver has already said that this will not deter him from encouraging players to participate in the FIBA World Cup and other events.

Silver even went on to say that injuries can happen anywhere, but players make that choice to play for their country and it’s a unique experience that he’s glad they can have. Silver, being the ever-mindful businessman he is, also said that if he’s to further grow the game overseas, people want to see the best of the best and the USA has been doing that since 1992. He said all of this after a visit with the Vice Premier of China, as well as the Ministers of Sport and Education, who were asking for the NBA’s support to make it a part of the physical education curriculum over there. That should tell you what you need to know about Silver’s stance on the issue, but we still don’t quite know where the Spurs stand on this.

And you shouldn’t expect any statement from San Antonio, as they have no reason to withhold anyone from playing on the USA team (despite Kawhi Leonard having a good shot to make the team). This will stay a hot topic until George returns to the court, but freak accidents happen and I strongly believe that is all this was, and of course I feel bad for George, as he was poised to have a very good season. He wasn’t going to have a lot of help doing it, but that’s a story for another time.

Paul Garcia

About Paul Garcia

Paul is a San Antonio Spurs credentialed media member for Project Spurs. He covered the 2013 NBA All-Star Game in Houston, TX, and the 2013 and 2014 NBA Finals. Paul has been featured on WOAI, Fox 29, and numerous nationwide radio shows.