Paul George: Risk of Injury, Zika, Not Enough to Sit Out Olympics

Addressing the media today at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the Pacers star said he was fully healthy and ready to rock in Rio.
A few weeks ago, Pacers star Paul George got a phone call from coach Mike Krzyzewski: would he represent Team USA in Rio?

“You can’t turn down Coach K,” George said at a media availability today at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Especially when Coach K has said this will be his last time coaching at the Olympics. George first met Krzyzewski going into his second year on a USA Select team. That’s when Coach K told him that at some point, George would be playing for him on the ‘A’ team. The fact that Coach K won’t be returning after this year had a lot to do with George’s decision to represent Team USA in Brazil this summer—that, and playing in the Olympics was George’s childhood dream.

An injury to his right leg at the 2014 Team USA scrimmage in Las Vegas turned the story of George’s NBA career into a cliffhanger, sidelining him for most of the 2014–15 season. But he re-established himself as an elite pro this past season, and now he’s ready to take on Rio.

Injury wise, George said he’s completely recovered, and there are no lingering physical weaknesses. He’s over it—the only time he remembers he was even injured is when he glances down at his leg each morning while putting on his shoes.

George feels healthy and strong, and has faith that his training has prepared him to compete in the Olympics. He isn’t worried about re-injuring his leg. There’s always a risk of injury, he reasons, and he’s not letting that stop him from chasing a lifelong dream.

The risk of contracting Zika adds another concern. George said mosquitoes like to bite him—“I guess I’m attractive to them”—and admitted the current outbreak in South America initially made him a little nervous about traveling there. But he did a lot of research about his health concerns before making the decision, and now, armed with a protocol on what to pack and how to travel, he feels comfortable.

George has turned his focus to training. Among Carmelo Anthony, Kyrie Irving, and DeAndre Jordan, there’s a lot of talent on Team USA, and George wants to be one of the top performers on the roster. To make that happen, he’s concentrating on where his talents can be most useful. He said his next step is learning how to space the floor, playing on and off the boards, and playing off the ball. Learning to play off the ball, George said, is where players really take it up a notch.

If all goes according to plan, the step after that might just be a gold medal.