Schedule Update & International Hoops
By Randy Renner
If you read Friday's post you know the Thunder and the Dallas Mavericks will play a preseason game in Big D on the Friday night before the OU-Texas football game in October.
That contest has not officially been announced yet by either team but I had a chance to talk with some Thunder officials over the weekend and they confirmed the plans.
In fact I'm told this is indeed something the Thunder and the Mavs have been trying to do for a while and hope to continue doing in the future.
The Thunder's preseason trip to Europe last year prevented a matchup then and another conflict the season before stopped the talks then.
The way is clear though for this preseason and hopefully for several more into the future.
The game just makes too much sense for both teams, OU and UT fans will already be swarming through the West End in Dallas anyway and the American Airlines Center is right there in that neighborhood.
OU fans will want to attend just to have another chance to see the Thunder play and UT fans (even if they normally root for the Mavs or the Spurs or the Rockets) will love to see Texas-Ex Kevin Durant.
Sounds like a great way to spend the Friday night before the Red River Rivalry.
International Basketball Changes
A lot of folks are asking for changes now in the way international basketball games are presented and the NBA's involvement in those games in the wake of that horrific injury suffered by Pacers star Paul George during a Team USA scrimmage.
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban would prefer his players not participate in international basketball and failing that he'd like to see the NBA take things over from FIBA or just sponsor a world games of its own.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver issued a statement about all of this over the weekend.
"Without a doubt, basketball has grown tremendously since 1992, when NBA players began playing in the Olympics," Silver said. "Also, it's important to note the improvement many of our players have made in terms of ability, leadership and passion for the game by playing for their home countries. Injuries can happen any place at any time. The experiences our players have enjoyed by participating in their national teams, however, are ones that are unique and special in almost every other way. At this point, I don't anticipate a major shift in the NBA's participation in international competitions. It seems clear, however, that this will be a topic at our next NBA competition committee meeting in September and our board of governors meeting in October. And, of course, we will continue to evaluate the pros and cons of participating in international tournaments."
Personally I enjoy seeing NBA players representing their home countries and I think it would be a shame to see that change.
Commissioner Silver is right when he says injuries can happen anywhere but why not do whatever can be done to reduce the chances?
NBA players are used to certain distances between the playing area and fans, photographers and stanchions supporting the goal.
Those distances aren't the same in international competition nor for that matter in arenas here in the States used for preseason games.
The stanchion Paul George collided with at UNLV's Thomas & Mack Center is closer to the baseline than similar stanchions at NBA venues. Different goals are used in college than in the NBA and there are differences in the international game as well.
That needs to change.
If NBA players are going to be involved, let's make sure the distances and safe areas they've grown accustomed to inside NBA arenas are the same for any arena where they'll play.
For exhibitions sanctioned by the NBA and for preseason games played inside college arenas or other facilities not normally used by NBA teams (like the Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita and the BOK Center in Tulsa where the Thunder will play preseason games in October) NBA goal stanchions should be brought in and used and the same limitations on baseline photographers and sideline seating at NBA venues should apply at these other facilities as well.
The number of photographers allowed along NBA baselines has been cut roughly in half over the last couple of years because of safety concerns.
It seems only prudent to extend those changes to all arenas where events involving NBA players are being held, whether here in the United States or around the world.