With a U.S. Basketball intrasquad scrimmage in its last quarter, Indy star-on-the-rise Paul George suffered a brutal leg injury that will be a considerable setback to his oncourt growth, the Pacers organization (already dealing with the loss of Lance), and Team USA. Not quite a minute into the fourth quarter of the national team’s showcase, which was set to decide which 14 players would move on from the 20 remaining participants, George undershot the base of the hoop as he chased down a James Harden fastbreak, his right leg folding like paper as he crashed into it.
The severity of the injury has not been undersold as it’s been compared to the gruesomeness of Kevin Ware’s leg snap and was unnerving to watch. All eyes have flocked to it, surely because of its ick factor, but more so because of what hinges on George’s health. His injury will hamper, and possibly stunt, the boundless growth of a true two-way NBA force, further hurt a Pacers squad facing down a more competitive Eastern Conference, and deal another blow to a U.S. Basketball group already without Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, and Kawhi Leonard.
The fact that U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski called the scrimmage before it could end says loads about the injury’s gravity. This wasn’t something to simply power through.
The loss of George won’t break a team with the kind of talent the U.S. squad has, but the fact that he was considered not only a lock for the eventual 12-man team but was expected to start speaks greatly about the type of player PG has become.
No one knows this better than the Indiana Pacers who were considerably worse when George rested on the sidelines last season. Their offensive efficiency didn’t even break the 100 mark as it topped off at 98.3 when he was off the court. When on, it rose to a more respectable 102.7. The team’s Net Efficiency equally suffered. With George in the active five, the Pacers were a plus-6.4. With him recharging on the bench, Indy’s Net Efficiency dropped to the floor at 0.3.
With a clean break of the fibia and tibula, George’s recovery is sure to have a happy ending but one with ample delay. All signs point to George missing out at least a full NBA season. Something that will surely have NBA owners as queasy as those who saw George bend like putty for fear of losing a bigtime star to international play. Some NBA owners and GMs were already uneasy about letting their prized players test the basketball gods outside of the regular season. This stomach-churning event is sure to bring about detrimental changes to international competition, at least where the U.S. team is involved.
For the time being, USA Basketball will bide its time as it makes its last roster cuts and tweaks. They’ll be able to survive without George’s lockdown defense and playmaking ability but that doesn’t mean that losing him won’t be a considerable setback to the current team and any future iterations to come.