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Portland Trail Blazers: Should Damian Lillard Play for Team USA?

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In the light of Paul George's devastating injury, Portland Trail Blazer fans ask whether Damian Lillard should continue playing international ball in the summer.

Ethan Miller

Dave,

After watching Paul George ruin his leg tonight I'm scared [profanity removed].  Portland's future suits up for that team & runs through those practices.  I'd feel better if Lillard quit playing and concentrated on the upcoming NBA season.  I wouldn't even feel bad if they cut him.  With so much at stake should Dame keep playing or not?

Brendan in Gresham

It's a moot point for now. CSNNW's Chris Haynes quotes Damian Lillard saying he'll remain with Team USA in the aftermath of George's injury:

It's always hard to see a player go down during non-regulation play but basketball injuries can happen anywhere. Plenty of guys go down during the season. Greg Oden was injured in pre-season warm-up scrimmages. It's not like the players are going to sit home encased in bubble wrap and twiddling their thumbs for five months while waiting for the new year to begin. (Doing so would increase the likelihood of injury when they returned to active play.) They're going to play basketball somewhere. Wherever they play, freak accidents can happen.

If injuries could be attributed to fatigue or overuse I'd start to get worried. I'd want to talk about the length of pre-season and the spacing of games. But a bone snapping in the middle of summer--even in the midst of preparation for international competition--does not a trend make. The same thing could have happened in a pick-up game.

I do worry about Lillard's participation and the devastating effect an injury would have on Portland's win total. But at some point we have to accept injuries as part of the game. They aren't fair. They aren't fun. But they can't be mandated away. The best we can do is ask owners and players to look at the NBA schedule and the importance of international competition, to weigh risk against reward, and to make the best decisions they can accordingly. If the rigors of professional basketball are too intense, particularly for star-level players, scaling back should be on the table. But simply walking away from organized summer ball and international play is not the answer.

I do expect that owners and league officials will examine the George injury from every angle. They'll look at the physical parameters of the venue, the stress of scheduling, and the risk of prominent NBA players participating in such events. I don't believe they'll come to an actionable conclusion. Certain teams might discourage their players from putting on other uniforms in the off-season. Certain players might pull out their calculators and measure the amount of guaranteed dollars on their contract versus the risk of losing future earnings. Beyond that, I'm not sure what anybody can do besides grimace and move on.

The best course right now is to continue the discussion and wish a speedy recovery to Paul George while praying that Damian Lillard never needs the same kind of wishes. International play will ultimately prove a good thing for Lillard, a chance to shine among the league's best. Fear of what might be--what would probably happen anyway if it's going to--shouldn't rob him of the chance to participate if he wants to.

--Dave blazersub@gmail.com / @DaveDeckard