USA Basketball Managing Director Jerry Colangelo said Tuesday that too much blame has been assigned to the basket at the Thomas & Mack Center. It’s been five days now since Paul George went up to contend a James Harden layup and his right leg collided with the basket stanchion as he tried to land on his feet during the USA Basketball Showcase.
Shortly after the brutal injury, George went into surgery at Sunrise Hospital to repair the open tibia-fibula fracture, an injury that is sure to cost him the 2014-15 NBA season.
“The stanchion is not the issue here,” Colangelo said on a teleconference with reporters Tuesday. “Some people want to make it an issue, but it’s not.”
We can all agree that George’s injury was a freak accident. And very, very nasty. It’s one of those things that NBA fans – and media – who witnessed the event as it happened will never forget where they were.
I was in Washington D.C. and had just logged on to WatchESPN.com to see how George and the other NBA stars were playing. My timing worked out, as about five minutes in I saw the events that are greatly impacting George and the Pacers unfold.
My first thought as the play occurred was, “Typical PG, hustling back in an All-Star game to not allow any easy buckets.”
Then, I couldn’t believe my eyes. George’s lower-right leg had snapped to nearly a 90-degree angle.
Curious observers right away noticed that the goal appeared to be closer than normal. They were right. Reporters at the game measured the stanchion to be 3 feet, 11 inches behind the baseline.
That’s just not enough for these elite athletes. And it’s certainly not the distance they’re used to having.
The NBA requires at least four feet. The Thomas & Mack Center, where UNLV holds their games and the NBA Summer League just wrapped up, was once inch short.
“If something is off an inch that certainly is not a cause of what something that took place to Paul George,” Colangelo attested.
After reviewing the incident on video dozens of time, Colangelo concluded that, “Paul George was in a stressful situation when he came down on the leg,” he said. “(George) then hit the stanchion.”
At Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the home of the Pacers since 1999, the goal is 5 feet, 5 inches back. I confirmed that measurement myself Tuesday, measuring from the back of the baseline to the front of the goal.
While I don’t believe George’s freak injury will cause a major shift in players wanting to be on Team USA, it’s naive to say the stanchion wasn’t responsible. (Colangelo said the other 19 players were “all on board” with the program after witnessing George’s fall.)
It certainly caused the injury, as George had nowhere to put his right foot. He’s used to having 18 more inches to land on his home floor, and many others.
The NBA has already trimmed the number of photographers and ball boys that can be on the floor during games. It used to be even more ridiculous and unsafe. Players couldn’t dive for loose balls or grab a wild rebound without having to extend his arm to brace for a fall.
And amongst all the negativity, I believe NBA team executives prefer their guys playing for USA Basketball, getting better, and surrounded by elite coaches and support staff, over pick-up games and Pro Ams. They’d play somewhere anyway, so why not encourage a quality, supportive environment.
George was honored and proud to play for his home country. He hadn’t travel around the world or taken long vacations this offseason like many of his teammates. He previously said his time would come this fall while in Spain playing for a gold medal. Though that won’t happen, the support for him has been outstanding and help him overcome this hurdle.
The injury is incredibly sad and unfortunate – primarily for PG and his family, but also for the Pacers. He is the franchise guy, one that will make almost $16 million this season as he sits out. He’s doing well now, and that’s the biggest thing.