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Damian Lillard, Larry Sanders and USA Basketball

With Larry Sanders suffering an injury at the USA Basketball camp, should Blazer fans think differently about Damian Lillard - or any star players - participating in international play?

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Introductory Note: Today Blazer's Edge welcomes another new author, Sam Tongue. Sam is going to cover general NBA news for us and help spiff up/restart our video and audio content. Mr. Tongue has a journalism degree from ASU and plenty of sports experience. Enjoy him! --Dave

Anyone else notice Damian Lillard on the court recently?

Team USA Basketball began activity this past week with a number of young American stars. Though buried on NBATV’s afternoon schedule, it still proved to be the highest level of talent seen since the NBA Finals (at least for basketball nerds).

The biggest name at the camp for Trail Blazer followers was certainly Lillard. Portland’s transcendent youngster highlighted a plethora of other guards, including all stars Kyrie Irving, Paul George and Jrue Holiday.

The week saw dozens of plays only fresh legs could make, from highlight dunks to sky-high blocks. But it also saw a scary moment too: a man go down.

As documented by Brew Hoop, a companion blog here at SB Nation, Milwaukee Bucks big man Larry Sanders hit the deck after falling on Chandler Parson’s foot. Sanders ended up with a sprained ankle, causing him to stop playing in the game—and the camp—after the injury.

Sanders should be fine. However, it had to be a scary moment for the Bucks faithful (front office included) to see the most promising part of their organization go down, if just for a split second.

We all certainly have views about whether or not players should be playing in games they either aren’t getting paid for or don’t help the team’s chance at a league championship, i.e. international play or preseason. With Lillard though, there’s an added dimension to this discussion:

Does having a Blazer—especially the Rookie of the Year, Adidas poster child and next ‘Savior of the Franchise’—make you think a little harder about all this international play?

Writing this piece isn’t an attempt to argue against star players playing for their country. Nor is it an argument against playing in other games. In fact, there are numerous arguments in favor of international play; the jump in production level made by various players on the most recent Olympic roster, not to mention the sheer pride gained by representing your nation on a worldwide stage come to mind first.

Therefore the question points at a different idea: Has your attitude towards non-salary related competition made you pause knowing your franchise’s future is on the court? Or do you keep the same attitude watching your franchise player don a logo other than the pinwheel?

For Milwaukee, that question certainly became much more real this week. Sanders isn’t necessarily on pace to become one of the best big men in history, but he has posted solid numbers, including second in the league in blocked shots a year ago. He also was the only Bucks player to be invited to the USA Basketball camp, much like Lillard was to the Trail Blazers.

Whether you believe the comparison between Lillard and Sanders is farfetched is up to you. But again, the point here isn’t to make you scared about risks that could arise with Lillard. In fact, as noted above, the reward is immense, particularly for player development.

Yet, the question remains: Does your opinion of international play change now that there’s a Trail Blazer highlighting the field?

It’s certainly a discussion you can’t ignore.