When Paul George first got hurt, before the slow-motion replays and the freeze frames, I thought he must have just twisted his ankle, given Andre Drummond’s reaction. After all, sprained ankles look nasty, but the injured player is usually fine a couple of days later. I didn’t expect the injury to be a big deal.
Then ESPN showed the play again in slow motion, Paul George’s leg caught the stanchion, which was too close to the court, and bent against itself. I literally leapt off my couch and paced around my living room. I’m not going to link to it; you can find it on your own if you feel like subjecting yourself to it. It’s not pretty.
Kelly Olynyk, who will never be blessed with Paul George’s athleticism, found himself in a much more ground-bound, much less serious predicament recently in international play.
FFS, Kelly. Have a little pride, man.
At first glance, this video is pretty funny. Olynyk is a fairly goofy-looking white dude who simply couldn’t stop himself in time to prevent himself from crashing into the barricade. Even worse, he can’t get his foot untangled from the billboard and actually takes a few steps still attached to his leg. It just seems like a very Kelly Olynyk problem.
This might be cause for a little concern, though.
That grainy screencap is Kelly Olynyk’s ankle twisting as he trips on something. He appears to be okay, as he immediately peels the billboard off himself and walks away, but this easily could have been yet another injury that NBA agents could saddle FIBA with as they try to keep their players away from potentially dangerous situations.
In today’s game, the baseline is more necessary than ever. Players are too fast, too big and too athletic. They need space to land, gather themselves, and reverse direction. That won’t fix every problem (freak injuries will happen sometimes, no matter what the court looks like), but the fact that some injuries could be prevented simply by having enough space to work with is clearly an issue. If “space to land” is an issue at the gym where multi-millionaire athletes are going to be performing, it’s time to either move the game or fix the gym.
The NBA game isn’t exempt in this either, incidentally. Players trip over cameramen more times than we like to admit, which has caused injuries before. The under-the-hoop angle is nice on breakaway dunks, but is it worth the twisted ankles and games missed that occasionally result?
The fact that freak injuries do happen in professional sports shouldn’t prevent event organizers from taking every safety precaution available. Olynyk isn’t hurt, but he easily could have been. If the NBA wants to keep its stars involved in international play (and it should), it would be wise to strong-arm FIBA into ensuring everyone’s safety.
Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.