During the Team USA scrimmage in preparation for the FIBA Basketball World Cup Indian Pacers forward Paul George badly injured his leg. He is now expected to miss the entire 2014-2015 season with a compound fracture of his right leg. The injury was incredibly gruesome and the scrimmage was ended with over 9 minutes remaining after it happened. The landscape of the Eastern Conference for the upcoming season is now completely changed with the Pacers likely out of the running missing their franchise player.
Team USA took a major hit when Paul George went up to block a shot and awkwardly fell on the base of the hoop and broke his leg. He is now definitely out for the FIBA Basketball World Cup and likely out for the entire NBA season as well. He would have definitely been one of the leaders in the competition, and the other players reactions to the injury showed how much he meant to the team. Now the team is left thin at the small forward position, which if George had not gotten hurt may have been their strongest position with him and Kevin Durant. Team USA will still go into the World Cup as favorites but will be without one of the best two-way players in the NBA.
Who this injury hurts much more than Team USA is the Indiana Pacers who are most likely going to have to play the entire season without their star. The injury to Paul George comes at a horrible time for the Pacers because they recently lost Lance Stephenson to the Charlotte Hornets in free agency. Now the team that has made it to the Eastern Conference finals the last two years will be without two of their best players from those two teams. A lot will now be expected of center Roy Hibbert who endured an awful 2014 playoffs after being an All-Star that very season. All signs will point to Indiana taking a major step back without the production and leadership that Paul George brings.
For a lot of other teams trying to contend in the improving Eastern Conference the Pacers taking a step back means things have really opened up. The big story will of course be the Cavaliers because of the return of Lebron James and the possibility of acquiring Kevin Love from Minnesota. They will definitely be a factor come playoff time, but some other teams will be in the mix as well. If Chicago can keep Derrick Rose healthy they could be the team to beat with the big addition of Pau Gasol and the emergence of Joakim Noah into one of the best centers in the league. Even without Derrick Rose the Bulls were the four seed in the East last year and are consistently one of the best defensive teams under coach Tom Thibodeau. Another team to look out for will be the Washington Wizards who crept up to five seed last year and their young backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal took major strides forward. They still have a great front court in Marcin Gortat and Nene and with the added boost of getting Paul Pierce in free agency.
Toronto showed last year that they are a real power creeping up all the way to the three seed with Kyle Lowry and Demar Derozan looking like stars in the making. Atlanta is a team that wont get much attention but should be better this season because of the return of star center Al Horford who missed most of last season. Even the Charlotte Hornets are improved from last year when they made the playoffs as the seventh seed. Al Jefferson is one of the most underrated players in the league and adding Lance Stephenson in free agency and Noah Vonleh in the draft should make them much more of a force. With the exit of Lebron from Miami it is hard to tell what they will bring to the table next year, but Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade will keep the Heat in the playoff mix. Teams like Brooklyn, Detroit and the Knicks have a chance to be in the mix as well in a vastly improved Eastern Conference. The Pacers could still make the playoffs but it is hard to see them making it past the first round without the Paul George who was by far and away their best player the last two seasons.
It was a very scary and gruesome injury that Paul George suffered in a Team USA scrimmage and he will now likely miss the entire NBA season. His injury completely changes the landscape of the Eastern Conference now with the Pacers likely out of championship contention, opening the door for other teams. George is a transcendent star in the league and fans of the league and especially his Pacers teammates will miss him greatly.
Commentary By Max Petkevicius