While preparing for the FIBA World Cup last summer, the Indiana Pacers forward Paul George suffered a gruesome leg injury.
With George out (along with some personnel changes), the Pacers have struggled mightily after making the Eastern Conference Finals in 2014.
The Pacers are just 18-32 this season, and currently in 12th place in the East. Thanks to an extremely weak conference, they still have a shot at making the playoffs.
With that in mind, the Pacers and George seem to be suggesting that he could come back before the end of the season. Pacers president Larry Bird recently said he hopes George will play if he’s ready:
“It seems like every week Paul is getting better and better. So if we do have an opportunity to get into the playoffs and [George] can get some games under his belt and get ready to go next year … I always say if a player is ready to play, they gotta play.
“We’re not going to hold him back if he’s able to go out there and play. When you’re out like that, you lose something. … I still think it’s important if he’s able to play, he should be out there.”
In response to Bird’s comments, George sent out a one-word tweet simply saying, “March?!”
George was asked recently about the possibility of returning, and noted he’s a while away, but wants to:
“Ideally, that’s a great time where I want to be there. I’m obviously a long ways away from it because I’ve got so many steps that I’ve got to take. But that’s when I want to be back.”
Despite what Bird and George are saying, the possibility of George returning early to help a team 14 games below .500 is ridiculous. Even if the Pacers are in the playoff race in March, they’d be in as the seventh or eighth seed, likely to get blitzed by the first or second seeds of a top-heavy conference.
Pacers coach Frank Vogel took a more cautious approach, saying he thinks Bird was just clarifying the difference between George and other injury cases like Derrick Rose last season:
“I think he basically was just clarifying sort of the difference between Paul’s situation and I guess what Chicago encountered with Derrick Rose, where they just said he’s out this year no matter what. We’re not going saying that. We think he [George] is likely out this year, but I think Larry was just stating that if he’s able to play then we’re going to open-minded to that.”
George still has nearly $US75 million remaining on his contract for the next four years, and the Pacers have the chance to make a quick re-tool this summer if things go as planned.
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