"WARNING: The following contains graphic images."
If this was a lead-in for Animal Planet's "Lion Feeding Frenzy" show or a "Keeping Up With The Kardashians" episode, you could understand it.
It's just not exactly the bold-faced introduction you expect for a sports story. But those were the first ominous words for a piece that was accompanied by harrowing video of Paul George snapping his leg when he awkwardly landed on a stanchion during a Team USA scrimmage.
His gruesome injury has jolted the NBA and our Olympic basketball revival — and all but ousted George's Indiana Pacers from title contention next season.
Team USA couldn't bear to finish the scrimmage Friday night in Las Vegas after George was carried off on a stretcher, his mother and father at his side with shell-shocked teammates and coaches. The blame game started immediately, however.
George's injury could have been avoided, right?
Absolutely ... if the Pacers could have banned Paul from playing basketball when he's off the clock, along with other dangerous offseason pursuits such as hang-gliding, motorcycle-riding and listening to Taylor Swift.
But that's not reality for George – or most players.
First, players are given the green light to represent their country through collective bargaining, much to the chagrin of Dallas owner Mark Cuban, a longtime opponent of allowing the NBA to assume all the risk while getting no financial reward from international play.
Secondly, players are usually honing their skills in some gym or park each summer anyway — just not on a big stage in Vegas prepping for an automatic Olympic berth.
"It's pretty hard to prevent players from playing the game; that is who they are," said USA Team director Jerry Colangelo during a conference call Tuesday. "That's their character. That's their core. They're going to play pick-up games, they're going to play any place they can, and injuries are part of the whole process."
What happened to George could have happened to Magic players Victor Oladipo or Tobias Harris, who had been selected to train with Team USA invitees.
Frankly, as much as some of these guys play during their down time, it's surprising more serious injuries don't occur.
Major-league baseball players hibernate in the winter. NFL players don't bang heads in the offseason — and normally don't get injured unless they're in a bar fight. All NBA stars need is a ball, a hoop and Instagram.
Even Joe Theismann probably winced when he saw it, but George's injury was the ultimate freak occurrence.
Cuban has been issuing his own warning for years about NBA players getting hurt in Olympic formats. But since the first Dream Team was formed in 1992, no other major injury had been sustained by a player in a USA Basketball setting.
Some critics are pointing to the stanchions on the Vegas court — the padded support beam for the basket apparatus — being inches closer to the baseline than they are in the NBA.
"The NBA All-Star Game was played on that court with those stanchions. The NBA Summer League is played there…" Colangelo said. "The stanchion is not the issue here. Some people want to make it an issue, but it's not."
NBA owners might be crossing their fingers every summer as they send out their millionaire investments into the great unknown. And they have every right to wonder if the price of patriotism is worth it, considering the economic impact the George injury likely will have on a Pacers team now expected to miss out on revenue from an extended postseason.
"At this point, I don't anticipate a major shift in the NBA's participation in international competitions," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said, but added, "It seems clear, however, that this will be a topic" at future league meetings.
Forget about the U.S. returning to the days when they sent college players to the Olympics. NBA stars are here to stay. None of them asked to go for home after watching the George horror show.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski acknowledged the devastating emotional impact, but said, "I think our guys might go after it even harder to honor Paul." It's on to Chicago for more warm-ups for the red, white and so very blue.
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