Posted by Dan McCarney
Wear and tear promises to be a hot topic for the Spurs this season. They’ve already had one foot allegedly in the grave for, oh, the past decade or so. And now almost half the roster will have spent the latter portion of their summer “break” playing international hoops — again.
None of those players will be scrutinized more closely than point guard/franchise cornerstone Tony Parker. EuroBasket 2013 hasn’t even started yet, and Parker has already suffered a pair of knocks to his right knee, the latter necessitating an MRI that revealed no damage. This after a grueling season in which he missed 16 games, enduring a variety of strains, bumps and bruises as the Spurs battled all the way to Game 7 of the Finals.
Miss any significant time, and you can guarantee the blame will land on Parker’s decision to compete for Les Bleus for a second straight summer. Indeed, some are already calling on the Frenchman
to hang up his beloved national jersey, citing recent breakdowns by Dirk Nowtizki and Rodrigue Beaubois as cautionary examples of what can happen from too much summer hoops.
It’s a fair argument, especially around these parts.
Not only was Manu Ginobili’s ensuing season sabotaged by an ankle injury suffered at the 2008 Olympics, David Robinson was never the same after injuring his back in the aftermath of the ’96 Games. (Which actually ended up being one of the greatest cases of silver linings in sports history, but that’s a post for another day.)
Then there’s the matter of Parker’s age (31) and mileage (1,045 games played, including playoffs), factors that could make a summer spent tooling around the French Riviera more suitable for a player whose prime is probably on fumes.
But here’s the thing: There’s no concrete evidence that summer hoops has a noticeably negative impact.
Let’s look at the 52 players who have suited up for Team USA at the Olympics since 1992, excluding Larry Bird and Magic Johnson (retired) and Christian Laettner, Anthony Davis and Emeka Okafor (rookies).
Of their combined 67 post-Olympic seasons:
* 34 played more or the same amount of games the following year.
* 33 saw their scoring averages increase.
* 40 improved or maintained their Player Efficiency Rating.
Certainly there are players who suffered significant downturns, or fell apart physically. Robinson’s was the most dramatic case, limiting him to just six games. Then there were Alonzo Mourning (69 games missed in 2000-01) and Kevin Love (64 missed last season).
Conversely, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony, among others, all enjoyed perhaps the best seasons of their careers coming off Olympic play.
Wade’s case is particularly noteworthy, with major improvements across the board after both
Olympic campaigns — all the more impressive considering his general lack of durability. If anyone should break down after an extra slate of hoops, D-Wade would be among the top candidates. But not only did he survive, he got significantly better, improving his scoring average by 7.9 and 5.6 points, and his PER by 6.5 and 8.9.
So what can we take away from all this?
There’s no doubt long that as players continue to sandwich summers of international competition between marathon NBA seasons, a portion of them will continue to get hurt and/or worn down.
But let’s be clear — this so-called wear and tear is not an automatic consequence of such a choice. As we’ve seen, there’s a strong case that the combination of experience and physical work — the latter of which every player engages in on his own to varying degrees — can actually be beneficial.
That’s probably as good a reason as any why the Spurs, in direct contrast to the vocal opposition of Mavericks owner Mark Cuban
, are so supportive of their players competing for their countries. And if the team that’s shelling out all those millions in salary are cool with it, that doesn’t leave much grounds for criticism.
Link to story: Spurs Nation » The myth of summer wear and tear