Michael Jordan once famously had it written into his contract that he would be allowed to play pick-up games during the offseason–Jordan called it the love of the game clause. Chicago Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf held his breath throughout MJ’s tenure in Chicago but luckily Jordan never suffered any serious offseason injuries in the Windy City.
Memphis Grizzlies forward Darrell Arthur was not so lucky. During a pick-up game Arthur broke the top of the fibula in his left leg. He will be sidelined for up to six weeks. Arthur also missed the start of last season after tearing his achilles tendon.
Arthur isn’t exactly Michael Jordan, but what if this sort of freak accident happens to a franchise player like LeBron James or Kobe Bryant? Should NBA owners have a say in what their players do in the offseason?
Chicago Bulls forward Luol Deng opted to represent Great Britain in the 2012 Olympics after suffering a torn ligament in his left wrist. Bulls management wanted Deng to have surgery to repair his wrist but Deng, a refugee from Sudan, felt obligated to represent the host nation that granted him asylum. Deng wound up playing in the Olympics against the wishes of his employers. Did the Bulls have the right to suggest that Deng miss the Olympics? I’d say yes.
Chicago has close to $28 million dollars invested in Deng over the next two seasons and with Derrick Rose on the sidelines until the spring Deng’s services are much needed. Risking further injury to his wrist while playing the summer Olympics could have put Chicago in a deeper hole than they are already in.
Spurs forward Stephen Jackson while recently promoting his foray into rap music revealed that he has never worked out in twelve off-seasons and for the most part has remained injury free. NBA owners may not be thrilled with Captain Jack’s music but he’s the type of player that every team would want—an injury-free player.
NBA franchises invest boatloads of money into talent and with ticket sales spiraling the last thing that owner’s want is their rosters depleted due to offseason injuries.
Not every accident is avoidable. Off the court Lakers guard Steve Blake stepped on a spike strip in a parking lot puncturing a hole in his left foot—I’m serious. Blake will miss the start of training camp.
Players taking it light in the offseason may produce sloppy preseason games but we all know those games don’t matter. What matters is the regular season and having all thirty teams at full strength for tip-off. That’s an impossible goal if players are missing the start of the season because of offseason injuries.