After suffering one of the most difficult-to-watch leg injuries in pro basketball history at a televised Team USA scrimmage, Indiana Pacers forward Paul George began to heal with alarming speed.
That trend has continued, and George is now looking almost ready to play. After Pacers president Larry Bird said things were looking good recently, George sent out this tweet:
"It seems like every week Paul is getting better and better," Bird said to reporters on Tuesday. "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.”
Bird’s approach shouldn’t exactly come as a surprise. His Boston Celtics teams of yore frequently pushed through injuries. Then-teammate Kevin McHale played with a broken navicular bone in his right foot suffered in March of 1987, all the way through to an NBA Finals loss against the Los Angeles Lakers.
And while George isn’t promising to play in such a compromised state — McHale’s gambit has resulted in a visibly hobbled step he now displays on the sideline as coach of the Houston Rockets — he and his team look like they’re definitely not going to go down the maddening, confusing, constantly prolonged recovery route that teams like the Chicago Bulls have with ever-valuable superstar Derrick Rose.
In the shaky Eastern Conference, one month of George could be the difference between the playoffs and the draft lottery for Indiana. Despite having their worst season since 2009-10 at 17-32, the Pacers are just 4.5 games away from the conference’s eighth and final playoff spot.
— John Wilmes