Indiana Pacers President of Basketball Operations Larry Bird spoke to the media on Tuesday roughly six months since Paul George suffered his injury while playing with Team USA. Most of the discussion centered around exactly that — will George suit up in a Pacers uniform this season?
Ever since October, the Pacers haven’t actually ruled out George and seemed to leave the door open. The only difference in Bird’s comments Tuesday is the fact that they will let George play when/if he’s healthy and if he wants to.
Which creates an interesting dynamic in itself. March will mark seven months since George broke his leg, and, according to Bird, the bone should be completely healed then by what he’s been told. The question after that becomes whether or not George progresses enough both physically and mentally to be able to play not only at the level we’ve come to expect from him, but a level that is good enough to not hurt the team or himself.
What happens if George is ready to go, say 2 to 3 weeks before the playoffs are set to begin and the Pacers sneak into the eighth seed? Are the Pacers ready to put that kind of pressure on George so soon after returning? That doesn’t seem ideal, but at the same time I’m no doctor.
Read between the lines and this comes off as more of a story to spread optimism around the team and its fan base. Getting back the prized asset and having him play would certainly create a better feeling going into next season than what is happening currently. Also, head coach Frank Vogel wasn’t exactly singing the same tune as Bird.
Nevertheless, George is obviously making great progress and the Pacers are that much closer to having him in uniform again. When exactly that will be, though, is still anyone’s guess.