What happened to Paul George is rocking the NBA, raising questions about international competition


Like the rest of the players, DeMarcus Cousins was stunned by what happened to Paul George. (John Locher / AP)

Paul George of the Indiana Pacers promised a speedy recovery from a gruesome broken leg, but the injury left the NBA reeling Saturday morning.

George is expected to miss most or all of the NBA season after he was injured in the USA Basketball scrimmage in Las Vegas and, before having surgery, he tweeted that he’d “be ok and be back better than ever.” Still, the injury to one of the league’s young stars is going to ripple through the NBA for quite a while because of the frightening nature of it, its severity and the safety and oversight issues it raises.

George, 24, was injured when his foot caught at the bottom of the stanchion and, as he turned his body to avoid it, the force caused his leg to snap. Doctors, who inserted a rod in his leg, said there was no damage to ligaments and Paul is expected to remain hospitalized about three days, until the risk of infection passes. As for his teammates, they were dealing with emotional fallout. The NBA’s superstars, they are likely to replay the incident over and over because they were as horrified and emotional as Louisville players when Kevin Ware’s leg snapped during the 2013 NCAA tournament. Will George’s injury make them less likely to play in anything other than the Olympics?


Team USA players and coaches huddled as Paul George received medical attention on the court. (John Locher / AP)

There are any number of other questions, too, and some of them will require the attention of NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and Michele Roberts, the new executive director of the National Basketball Players Association. Specifically, the placement of the stanchion at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center will be the focus of concerns about safety. It appeared closer to the baseline than the at least four feet that the NBA requires. And there is the question of the number of games players are playing.


Damian Lillard (left to right), James Harden, DeMarcus Cousins, Kenneth Faried and Chandler Parsons watch as Paul George is attended by medical personnel. The rest of the USA exhibition was canceled after the injury. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images)

Pacers General Manager Larry Bird was supportive of USA Basketball in a statement he issued after the incident, reminding everyone that the NBA is pushing its game worldwide. “Our first thoughts are with Paul and his family. It is way too early to speculate on his return as the No. 1 priority for everyone will be his recovery,” Bird said. “Our initial discussions with our doctors and the doctors in Las Vegas have us very optimistic. We are hopeful at some point next week Paul will return to Indianapolis to continue his recovery. 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. Our franchise has had setbacks in its history but has demonstrated the ability to recover. Paul will provide the example of that off the court and it is up to the rest of us to provide that example on the court.

“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. We still support USA Basketball and believe in the NBA’s goals of exposing our game, our teams and players worldwide. This is an extremely unfortunate injury that occurred on a highly-visible stage but could also have occurred any time, anywhere. Finally, the Pacers would like to thank our fans the the NBA community for their outreach of support in the brief amount of time since the injury occurred. It has been overwhelming and it is what makes Indiana and the NBA special.”

George was hurt as the team prepares for the FIBA World Cup later this month and the debate about the merits of international competition (other than the Olympics). In the immediate aftermath, Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted: “Owners and GMs united tonight: Paul George injury could be tipping point for use of stars in international play. “Game-changer,” GM told me.”

As The Post’s Michael Lee noted:

NBA executives have debated for years the merits of having the game’s best players participating in international competitions. In the past 10 years, some of the game’s biggest stars have had major setbacks while representing their countries; Pau Gasol, then a member of the Memphis Grizzlies, broke his foot while leading Spain to the 2006 world championship and San Antonio Spurs forward Manu Ginobili injured his ankle while playing for Argentina in the 2008 Olympics. Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen sparked some controversy two years ago for suggesting a few months before the London Olympics that star players should be paid for participating. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was been one of the most outspoken critics of the policy given the risk for injury. Mavericks forward Chandler Parsons, however, is currently trying out for the team.

This much so far is certain: George’s injury is hitting the NBA hard. In an Instagram of images of him facing George, LeBron James wrote: “Hurt my stomach the moment I heard the news! I didn’t want to believe it. Man I need u out there bro! Get well and have a speedy recovery PG24! #DamnIt #YoungKing #StriveForGreatness.”


Paul George was taken from the court and underwent surgery. (John Locher / AP)

 

 

Video of the injury is here and it is offered with the warning that it is graphic in nature and not for the squeamish.

More from The Post

George suffers gruesome leg injury

George has surgery

After spending most of her career in traditional print sports journalism, Cindy began blogging and tweeting, first as NFL/Redskins editor, and, since August 2010, at The Early Lead. She also is the social media editor for Sports.
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