Paul George: 'Right Now, It's About Getting Better'
Paul George looks so relaxed and natural, knocking down three-pointers with his teammates on the practice court at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, that you have to remind yourself the star forward for the Indiana Pacers suffered a devastating leg injury just a few months ago. An injury that will likely keep him sidelined for most of the season.
George looked healthy and fit on Friday, despite having a metal rod inserted in his right tibia, the result of a freak accident during a Team USA exhibition game in Las Vegas last August. Meeting with the media for the first time since the start of the season, George said these days he’s feeling no pain, just a little bit of soreness here and there. He says the toughest part is not being able to do what he’s here to do: play basketball. But until that time comes again, he’s finding new ways to contribute to the team.
“I get a chance to sit back and watch the game from a different perspective,” he says. “I get to learn a lot, lift, work out. There’s a lot of positives. Though I want to be out there with the guys, I still feel like I’m contributing by getting in their ears … still being part of our locker room.”
It helps that George is recovering alongside fellow teammate and friend, point guard George Hill, who suffered a knee injury during preseason play. George says the two joke that he’ll be back before Hill will.
As far as recoveries go, George says he’s had no major setbacks. He has been racing Hill on a treadmill in a pool and was just cleared for light court work.
George is slowly transitioning from rehab patient to basketball player, with the goal of getting back on the court this season. Though he can’t say when, he knows he’ll be back. And better than ever.
“When you lose something like basketball, which is everything to me—I feel like I took a lot of things for granted in this game,” says George. “Coming back, it’ll be a lot more passion through it. And just a lot of love for this game. And I think that will show the second I get back on the court.”
Like others, George is impressed at what this young Pacers team has accomplished without the likes of him, Hill, and forward David West (who is day-to-day with a sprained ankle).
“They’re competing,” says George. “These guys aren’t caught up with who’s in a jersey and who’s out [of] the jersey. They’re still going out and representing. And you can’t be more proud of that. They’ve been pretty much written off as a team that’s not going to succeed this year, and I think they’re definitely [exceeding] expectations right now.”
Eventually, when he gets clearance, George will take his role as coach and “public relations intern” on the road and travel to away games, where just the routine of being alongside his “brothers” and going through the same tasks they do will be a welcome change from watching at home.
“But right now, it’s about getting better,” he says. “You know, making sure I’m good for the future.”
And for Paul George, the future can’t come soon enough.
Indy sports nut Heather Lloyd weighs in on all things Pacers and Colts on her blog, The Blue Mare.