Pacers coach Frank Vogel: ‘very unlikely’ that Paul George plays this year

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Paul George suffered a horrific injury playing for USA Basketball this past summer, and is expected to miss the entire season while working his way back.

Add in the loss of Lance Stephenson in free agency, and an Indiana offense that finished just 22nd in efficiency last season figured to be a whole lot worse, to the point where even coming close to sniffing the playoffs this year would appear to be a long shot.

But George is setting a goal for himself to try to play this season — even though Pacers head coach Frank Vogel cautioned that the team is preparing as though it’s not going to happen.

From Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star:

“It’s a goal for sure to be able to have the opportunity to play this year, especially alongside the group of guys that we’ve got,” George said. “I feel very confident with the guys we got (who) are in the jersey or out of the jersey right now. We have a good team. That’s one of my goals. I would love to come back and make a return and help this team out anyway I can down the line. But right now it’s about getting healthy and making sure I’m good for the future.” …

“Very unlikely that Paul George plays this year,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said Friday.

Vogel also addressed whether the timeline had been pushed up because of George’s progress.

“No,” he said. “It’s really a big unknown. It’s going to be up to the doctors to see where he’s at as he starts increasing activity. He hasn’t done any real activity on that thing other than walk around and shoot around. It’s still a long ways away and we’re still approaching it like it’s very unlikely he’s going to play this year.”

George is Indiana’s franchise player, and the team isn’t going to allow him back until he’s been medically cleared, and is once again at 100 percent.

And, there’s nothing in it for the Pacers for George to return sooner than expected if the team is so far out of the playoff race by then that it wouldn’t make any sense.

Like it or not, the league rewards losing teams with higher odds of landing a better draft pick, so unless George can miraculously be back in time to affect a playoff push, it’s unlikely the team allows him to return this year — if only for selfish reasons.