When Paul George broke his leg on August 1, many feared for the worst. The horrific video where Indiana’s star player landed on his leg, which resulted in his lower leg snapping perpendicular to the rest of his limb, led many to believe it could have been career-ending. To a player of the magnitude of George, one thing is on his mind — to come back stronger than the player that led his Indiana Pacers to back-to-back Eastern Conference Finals. In order to make his eventual return, Paul George will have to now shift his focus from the upcoming season to his overall health.
Ever since his emergence during the 2012-2013 season, which netted him the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award, George has established himself as the franchise player for Indiana. He is, arguably, Indiana’s most consistent player. Not only is he the franchise’s leading scorer at 21.7 ppg, but he is as diverse as it comes. He ranked second on the squad in rpg at 6.8, second in assists at 3.5 apg, and served as the team’s most reliable defender, headlined by his first All-Defensive First Team selection this past season. Moreover, George brings intangibles to this Pacers team. He is one of the few who does not choke under pressure. Most importantly, he serves as the team leader.
This upcoming season was supposed to be the season where the Indiana Pacers proved their doubters wrong. After all, last season Indiana was primed for a championship run, only for the Pacers to fall into disarray. Indiana’s embarrassing downward spiral during the second half of the season made them look like a shell of their early-season counterpart. Without George, Indiana’s hopes of bouncing back is slim-to-none, particularly with a bulked-up Eastern Conference.
Throughout the last month, George has done what a true leader should, promising that he will return stronger than ever, promising that the Pacers will stand tall, on the top of not only the Eastern Conference, but the NBA at-large. The questionable stance that he has taken, particularly over the last week, is that he will be returning to the floor sometime this season, possibly bringing false promises to the NBA.
For George to make a full recovery, doctors have estimated that it will take approximately 12 to 18 months. In other words, he is unlikely to play at his level until next August at the earliest, possibly not until January of 2016. More importantly is the fact that George does not only need his leg to heal, but he has to train it and rehab it all over again. For George to be an MVP-worthy player once again, he will have to be cautious upon his return. Like many other players who have come before him, a return too soon could have some serious long-term effects on his physical state. More importantly, he will only hurt the Pacers future if he returns without being 100 percent. Instead of being a mediocre Eastern Conference squad this year, they may continue that outlook for years to come.
George needs to have the mindset of prioritizing his body, first and foremost. After all, President of the Indiana Pacers Larry Bird has addressed his plan of attack for the 2013-2014. As such, the team is moving on under the belief that Paul George will not return to the court this season. Pacers coach Frank Vogel, in turn, needs to carry out Bird’s plan, with a blueprint that can keep the Indiana Pacers competitive for the upcoming season. Meanwhile, Paul George will be improving on his health, not of a focus set on his Pacers’ upcoming season. It is only once he is 100 percent that the Pacers’ franchise player can gather his troops to prove that Indiana has what it takes to be a championship contender.
Commentary by Simon Mounsey