Pau Gasol Injures Finger, Has Surgery In Spain

He has ligament damage and a broken bone, but had surgery and will be ready for the season.

It is ever too early to start worrying about next season’s Lakers team?

Not in Los Angeles, and not with the news that Pau Gasol broke the index finger on his left hand and damaged some ligaments yesterday blocking a shot in a national team practice. Unlike Kobe, who has just taped his finger together and played through the pain of ligament damage for a couple years, the “soft” Gasol decided to follow doctor’s recommendations and get the surgery done. And since his mom is a doctor, you do what mom says.

It’s the smart thing to do — and it won’t impact the Lakers. Pictures of the injury do not show much tape and no cast, and Gasol said he should be fine in a few weeks. The official timeline for Gasol’s return based on reports out of Spain is that he could be back practicing and playing in three weeks. Not coincidentally, that is when the European Championships start (Spain opens against Serbia Sept. 7). Whether Gasol plays in those games remains to be seen, although with his long-standing dedication to the national team you should expect to see him out there.

This should not impact the Lakers — they do not go to camp for almost six weeks. They don’t play a game that matters until Oct. 27. By then, Gasol should be at or near 100%.

However, the injury to Gasol (and a sprained ankle suffered by the Spurs’ Tony Parker in the run-up to the same tournament) brings a question soccer, er, football has been dealing with in Europe for years:

What comes first, club or country?

On one hand, there is a special glory in playing and winning for your country, as evidenced by the lineup of top American stars who made a multi-year commitment to be part of the team that won the gold in Beijing.

On the other hand, it is the club that pays you millions a year. They are your employers.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has been vocal in the past about not wanting his players to play international tournaments, although he didn’t really try to stop Jason Kidd last year from going to Beijing. Other owners, particularly when dealing with players just returning from injury, have encouraged players to not to play for their country.

In soccer-mad Spain, and throughout Europe, this issue comes up annually. Michael Owen was to be a key part of the Newcastle attack but was never quite right after going down in a World Cup match. There are other examples all over Europe.

And now, with players like Manu Ginobili having had ankle issues that never quite healed, the same issue has come to basketball. And with the glory of playing for their country, the NBA teams are going to lose this battle just like their soccer brethren have.

At least for Gasol, it isn’t serious, or seriously impacting the Lakers chances.

Kurt Helin lives in Los Angeles where he is runs the NBA/Lakers blog Forum Blue & Gold (which you can also follow in twitter).

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