CHICAGO -- Derrick Rose still remembers the vibe in the Thomas and Mack Center on the night of Aug, 1, 2014. In a more intense than usual scrimmage between players looking to represent Team USA in the 2014 World Cup of Basketball, Indiana Pacers star Paul George went down iin the fourth quarter with a gruesome leg injury.
"Very emotional," Rose said after Thursday's practice. "You felt it from the players, the coaches and just the feeling of the crowd. The crowd felt it. And afterwards you could just tell that everybody was concerned about him."
George sustained a career altering injury. He missed almost all of the following season. But he has bounced back with a vengeance this year, averaging 25.9 points, 8.4 rebounds and 4.8 assists heading into Friday's matchup against the Bulls.
Rose, who has dealt with several career altering knee injuries of his own the last few years, has watched with admiration from afar as the Pacers star has elevated his game back to an elite status.
"It’s been great," Rose said. "If anything, it gives kids, it gives people that are going through the same situation hope because who would have known that he would have come back this way.?Seems like he’s a better player. He’s understanding the game a little bit more, he’s putting the team on his back in situations where he doesn’t let them go and be down big, so he’s taking the right shots. I think it’s helping him grow as a basketball player."
Like many around the league, Rose was happy George had already signed a max contract before the injury occurred.
"In a situation like that, and for it to be USA Basketball, it's kind of devastating," Rose said. "Because you've got to think about a player. Thank God he signed a contract for one the previous year before he had the injury. And you have to miss a year with an injury like that so I'm just happy to see that he's playing good basketball. But just being there, it put everything into perspective, where it's like you appreciate everything and you can't do anything but pray."
For his part, Rose says he is feeling :good" as he returns from a sprained ankle that kept him out for a week before returning in Tuesday's win over the Portland Trail Blazers. He says he and George never talked or texted during George's rehab process, but it's clear in listening to him, and to Bulls personnel, that they respect the work George has put in to get back to this point.
"He's playing as well as any player in the league right now," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "It's been good. He's a guy that obviously put a lot of time and effort into his rehab after the gruesome injury. He's back in top form. He's very difficult for the league, he's got size, he can score from all over. He plays effortless basketball. When you're out there making difficult plays and you make it look easy, that's, I think, the sign of a true superstar."