Paul George suffered a horrific leg fracture early in the fourth quarter of Friday night’s USA Basketball Showcase in Las Vegas, and the scene was so somber that the exhibition game couldn’t possibly have continued to be played under the circumstances.
It was immediately known that something serious had occurred, given the gruesome nature of George’s injury. Players were visibly shaken, and all thoughts afterward were on George, with the night’s USA Basketball proceedings and upcoming roster decisions taking a back seat, for reasons that should be completely obvious.
While seeing something like this happen on national television is a sobering reminder of just how fragile an athlete’s career can be, Pacers president Larry Bird isn’t going to overreact. In an updated statement released on Saturday, Bird acknowledged that while the injury was extremely unfortunate, there’s a possibility of it happening anytime a player steps on the floor.
“Our first thoughts are with Paul and his family,” Bird said, via an official team release. “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. 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 abilities 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 anytime, anywhere.
“Finally, the Pacers would like to thank our fans and 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.”
The key here is that players are at risk anytime they compete at the game’s highest level, and that could happen during practice at a team facility just as easily as it could in a nationally televised exhibition contest.
It won’t make George’s injury any easier to swallow, however, and there will likely be some future fallout in terms of players thinking twice about committing unnecessarily to USA Basketball duties in the summers to come.