Paul George suffered a broken leg while participating in a training camp for the U.S. National Basketball Team. It was a gruesome injury that has been widely seen on television. George, 24, is considered one of the league’s brightest young stars and will miss the entire 2014 season. He is a two-time All-Star for the Indian Pacers, and averaged 21.7 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.9 steals per game.
George was preparing to play with the national team for the FIBA World Cup. The 28-team tournament begins in Spain this month, with the winner automatically qualifying for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016.
George sustained his injury while contesting a fast break lay-up by James Harden and struck a backboard stanchion. While soaring in the air the stanchion stopped his momentum short.
There is a growing concern whether these athletic players have enough room to operate as they are driving towards the basket. The stanchion in question was only three feet, 11 inches from the baseline. The NBA requires a minimum of four feet. Many arenas, however, provide more space. There are often photographers under the baskets as well that add to the obstruction.
By suffering a broken leg, Paul George’s injury has left many top NBA figures wondering how to move forward. Certainly the entire obstruction issue behind the baskets will be addressed, as will the willingness to release players for international tournaments.
Larry Bird, the president of basketball operations for the Indiana Pacers, said, “We still support USA Basketball and believe in the NBA’s goals of exposing our game, our teams and players worldwide.” He further stated that this was an unfortunate injury, occurring on a highly visible stage that could have happened anywhere, anytime.
George suffered a horrific open tibia-fibula fracture in his right leg. He underwent successful surgery at Sunrise Hospital, Las Vegas. Dr. David Silverberg, Dr. Joseph Yu and Team USA physician, Dr. Riley Williams performed the surgery. During the successful surgery no ancillary damage was found. He is expected to be hospitalized for three days.
George was a lock to make the national team and his loss is a huge blow. The team is slated to play exhibition games in Chicago, New York and Spain before the tournament begins. This injury was so devastating to Team USA that coach Mike Krzyzewski cancelled the rest of the game.
In the toughest position of all, however, are the Indiana Pacers. They have already lost shooting guard Lance Stephenson through free agency and now they have lost their best player and team leader. Chris Copeland, who averaged a mere 6.5 minutes per game is the likely candidate to replace George. Veterans Rodney Stuckey and C.J. Miles who signed with Indiana during free agency are also potential options.
After Paul George suffered his broken leg, several basketball executives questioned the rationale of letting their best players participate in an international tournament of this type. It also raised some safety concerns that exist in most NBA arenas. Larry Bird summed it up best when he said, “This is an extremely unfortunate injury that…could have occurred anytime, anywhere.”
Commentary By Hans Benes