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The Indiana Pacers are still reeling from the devastating leg injury suffered by star player Paul George during Friday night's U.S. national team intrasquad scrimmage at UNLV.
George remained at Sunrise Hospital in Las Vegas on Saturday following surgery to repair an open tibia-fibula fracture. He was expected to remain hospitalized for about three days, and the Pacers hope he can return to Indianapolis next week, though it will be months, perhaps a year, before he can return to the court.
But the team is taking solace in the fact that a full recovery is a distinct possibility for one of the top all-around players in the NBA.
"What I've learned through this process is that it's not ]career-ending]," Pacers general manager Kevin Pritchard told the Indianapolis Star on Saturday, when he spent time with George at the hospital. "It's actually a good thing. It's bone and bone only. It doesn't look like any soft-tissue damage. We're not trying to project when he's coming back, just trying to get him through this week and then we'll know more, but the biggest risk right now is infection. That looks really good right now. They just changed his dressing and it looks really good.
"I have no fear he'll be back and back in a big way. We're not going to put a timetable on it but I don't think there's any doubt he'll be back."
On Saturday night, George posted a photo on Instagram of welterweight champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. visiting him in the hospital following the surgery.
A source told ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne that George likely will leave the hospital on Monday.
Paul George Sr., in an interview with the Indianapolis Star on Saturday, said his son "still can't believe that this has happened" but is doing all right nonetheless.
"Paul's doing well now. He's doing good. He's just resting right now," George Sr. said. "If it had to break, it broke the right way. It broke evenly, so they're saying he should be back 100 percent. But of course, he's got to go through his long process of healing and getting back in the gym, but they're saying that shouldn't stop him from doing what he was doing once he's healthy again."
George, 24, was injured when his leg landed and then buckled at the base of the basket stanchion after he fouled James Harden on a drive to the basket just 27 seconds into the fourth quarter of Friday's showcase.
After George left in an ambulance, the rest of the game -- a scrimmage between players in camp for the U.S. as it looks to trim its roster ahead of the FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain that begins Aug. 30 -- was canceled.
|Despite suffering a gruesome lower right leg fracture, the Pacers are optimistic Paul George will make a full recovery.|
The game took place at UNLV's Thomas & Mack Center, and a source said the league is investigating the placement of the basket stanchion there. The league standard is for the stanchion and any photographers to be four feet from the baseline. The stanchion at the arena was 3 feet, 11 inches, a source told Shelburne.
The Pacers issued a statement Saturday about George's injury and prognosis.
"It is way too early to speculate on his return as the No. 1 priority for everyone will be his recovery. Our initial discussions with our doctors and the doctors in Las Vegas have us very optimistic," president of basketball operations Larry Bird said. "There is no question about the impact on our team but our goal is to be as strong-willed and determined as Paul will be in coming back. ... Any discussion regarding the future of our team would be inappropriate at this time. Our focus is solely on Paul and doing whatever we can to help."
George does have several advantages as he embarks on the long road to recovery, including the fact there was no soft tissue damage to the leg.
"The thing about breaking a bone is that if you get it back in the appropriate position, it can be as good as new,'' said Dr. James Gladstone, the co-chief of sports medicine at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. "If the muscle is not involved and the bone and muscle are fully healed, then I think he will get back [to his previous form]."
Gladstone, who is not treating George, said it usually takes athletes nine to 12 months to completely recover from this type of injury. If that timetable holds up, the earliest possible return for George would be May, when the NBA playoffs are in full swing.
"Doctors said give him at least three months before he can start putting weight on it," George Sr. told the Star. "Then he said from there it's up to him how far he can go with it. We'll have to play it by ear. He's hurting. He still can't believe that this has happened."
Also in George's favor is that he's in top shape, which could speed the healing process, and he's become more nutrition-conscious over the past two years, something Dr. Patrick Kersey said could be a key factor in the recovery. Kersey, a physician at St. Vincent Sports Performance in Indianapolis, is the medical director of USA Football and treated Louisville guard Kevin Ware when he suffered a similarly horrific injury during the 2013 NCAA tournament regional finals.
The fact George is known as a relentless worker, which is how he broke out of the shadows of more highly touted high school recruits and NBA prospects to impress Bird enough to draft him No. 10 overall in 2010, could be both a positive and negative.
That's why George's biggest obstacle may be his own patience.
"It's a challenge because [athletes] want to push the envelope always,'' Kersey said. "First, he has to get back to a normal life and then the body needs to work in an efficient way. Once those pieces are in place you can kind of start training and then return to basketball."
George, a two-time All-Star, averaged 21.7 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.9 steals per game last season. He signed a five-year, $92 million extension with the Pacers last fall that was set to kick in this season.
The defending champion U.S. team, meanwhile, already had been weakened by player losses.
Forwards Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge and NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard all had pulled out in recent weeks.
George would have been a candidate to start for the Americans alongside Durant. The two, along with Harden, spent the week playing in one-on-one competitions after practice, pushing each other while building chemistry leading up to Friday night's game.
The U.S. is scheduled to take the next week off before reconvening in Chicago for its next practice Aug. 14.
Some NBA executives have long been concerned about injuries to players during summer competitions.
In the wake of George's injury, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban renewed his call for the NBA and its players to organize their own quadrennial competition separate from the sport's international governing body.
"Anything can happen anywhere, a lot of things happen,'' U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski, who was coaching Duke against Louisville when Ware broke his leg, said Friday night. "Tonight it happened during a basketball game. We need to take care of that. It doesn't mean it'll happen again and again and again; it means that it happened right now. And we need to take care of right now appropriately and then move on.''
Bird echoed that sentiment in his statement Saturday.
"We still support USA Basketball and believe in the NBA's goals of exposing our game, our teams and players worldwide," Bird said. "This is an extremely unfortunate injury that occurred on a highly visible stage, but could also have occurred anytime, anywhere."
ESPN's Darren Rovell, ESPNChicago.com's Nick Friedell, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.