Paul George used crutches to help himself to the Indiana Pacers’ press room on Friday. He sighed when he sat down. He may have looked broken on the outside, but as soon as he started talking, the NBA all-star sounded whole. George spoke publicly today for the first time since he suffered a season-ending leg injury during a Team USA exhibition game in Las Vegas.
He made sure everyone understood that he does not hold USA Basketball accountable for his injury.
“Freak accidents happen. USA Basketball doesn’t deserve any criticism from this,” George said, adding “I look forward to participating in the Olympics with Team USA in 2016.” That should be doable, considering USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo already promised George a spot on the 2016 team last week.
As for his Team USA activities in the near future, George said he won’t be attending Saturday’s exhibition game against Brazil in Chicago. He doesn’t want to be a “distraction.”
Reporters pressed George to give a planned date of his return to the NBA, but the Pacers standout said he couldn’t.
“It’s really a day-to-day process right now,” George said. “We don’t want to put a date on it, or put a time frame on it. Some days I will feel good, and some days I’ll feel bad. But once I feel great, the whole staff will know when it’s go-time.” Previous reports have indicated that George could be mended as soon as playoffs next year, but most experts say he’ll likely be out for the whole season.
Just because George won’t be playing, however, doesn’t mean he’ll be forgotten. George noted his recovery has been aided by the attention he’s getting from his teammates. “They made this process easier,” George said. Pacers teammate Roy Hibbert even brought George a few “goodies” while visiting him in the hospital in Las Vegas, including Gummi bears and “a silk-and-fur blanket to lay in.” (Basketball players get pretty great salaries.)
George is confident that his injury will not have any long-term negative effects on his career, his body or his mind.
“I expect a strong left leg long term,” George said. “[This injury] is something that I think I can overcome. It’s a bump in the road. It’ll be a story that I can tell, a testimony that I will have, and something that will make me stronger going forward. I don’t think it will affect me in a negative way.”