The return of Paul George to the Indiana Pacers
- Updated: April 5, 2015
Paul George finished the 2013-2014 season setting a career-high in points (21.7 points per game). But even with that career-high, the Pacers were frighteningly inconsistent. They started the season dominating the NBA’s Eastern Conference. But as the season went on, the Pacers lost their steam and sputtered into the playoffs. George and the Pacers eventually bowed out of the playoffs, losing to the Miami Heat in six games. But many were encouraged as to how George had progressed and what was to come. The excitement quickly turned to despair though on August 1st. On that day, George would suffer a gruesome leg injury while running into the stanchion of the hoop during a Team USA scrimmage in Las Vegas. The injury was extremely gruesome to see and it was expected that George would be out for the rest of the year. But slowly you begin to hear about Paul George working out and there was some video evidence of him being back on the court as well. But even with that, many thought it was all a dream about him coming back this season. Well, that dream is about to become reality as George is set to debut today at home against the Miami Heat. Although it is not clear how much he will play, George, who many have given the nickname PG13 after a jersey change to the number 13, the fact remains that he will return to the team and be ready to contribute. But how effective will he actually be?
The Pacers are in a race for the last playoff spot in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. They were struggling early in the season, but they have fought back to make it interesting in the East. But even with that, is it really worth bringing back a guy that probably is not full-strength yet? Paul George returning will give the Pacers an emotional high for a second, but once the dust settles, the reality that he is not the same Paul George will hit everyone. Playing in practice is no substitute for playing in the game. George may have looked good enough in practice to convince the Pacers he could play, but you cannot substitute game speed no matter how much you practice. When he gets in the game and settles in, he will have to battle some breathing issues. That happens when you have not played for a while. And with that, he will may increase the issues he has recovering from that gruesome injury. Also with coming back from that injury, the Pacers have to make sure they do not see him out there compensating for that injury and for the lack of strength that is potentially there in that leg. If he does that, then he is subject to sustain another injury trying to make it back on the court. That could be something that could not only set back Paul George but the Pacers organization. Indiana gave Paul George a max extension and that could potentially tie up money for them if he cannot come back all the way from this injury. The Pacers are essentially rolling the dice that George is going to be fine from this injury.
The way Paul plays when he comes back from injury is definitely something to watch, but it will also be something that could further deter them not making the playoffs. The Pacers have gotten used to not playing with George all year long. And as the season has gone on, there have been many that have stepped up in his absence. With the addition of George back into the rotation, that could shock the Pacers on the court a little. Last season the Pacers ran a lot of their offense through George and former Pacer Lance Stephenson. With him coming back, will the team try to force him the basketball and expect the same Paul George from last year? If they do, Vogel and the Pacers could further damage the run towards the playoffs for this team. George has gotten better each and every season and he is their best player when healthy, but the fact remains that he has been gone all season long. And he will more than likely not be the same guy that he once was, at least for this season. The best thing the Pacers could do is work him into the offense but not forcefeed him the basketball. That will allow George to get comfortable while allowing the rest of the team to still keep the flow they have.
The Pacers are a team teetering on the edge of playoff extension. Going forward, the Pacers are taking a chance on the return of their superstar from a gruesome injury to lead them to the playoffs. Will he be the guy he once was? Probably not. But can he help get them to the playoffs is the question. The results should be there in a couple weeks for the Pacers. They could right the ship and beat out the other teams for that last spot. They could also lose badly trying to integrate George back into the rotation. But for Indiana, the dice have been rolled and the Pacers are hoping to see the playoff picture, rated PG13 of course.