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How Paul George’s Injury Shakes Up The Eastern Conference

The Indiana Pacers have likely lost Paul George for the season after already losing Lance Stephenson to free agency, leaving their 2014-15 hopes bleak.

Paul George
Paul George

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Paul George suffered a right leg, open tibia-fibula fracture Friday night in a Team USA scrimmage. George has already underwent successful leg surgery, and is expected to miss the entire 2014-15 NBA season.

Without George, the Pacers’ unquestioned best player, you can essentially forget about the team contending in the Eastern Conference next season.

This is just the nail in the coffin for Indiana, which after earning the No. 1 seed in the East last season and overcoming a late-season collapse by making it all the way to the Conference Finals, has now lost it’s two top players.

Lance Stephenson is now in Charlotte, and the loss of his scoring and defensive prowess was already a major obstacle for Indiana to overcome.

The team whiffed in free agency, failing to sign anybody of note and coming up short in its reported attempt to acquire Rajon Rondo from the Celtics. Not to mention there were talks about sending Roy Hibbert out of town, so how happy is the big man that he was mentioned as trade bait?

Now George, the leading scorer and go-to guy in crunch time, is out of the mix. George averaged 21.7 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 3.5 assists last season en route to earning an All-Star bid, All-Defensive First Team, and All-NBA Third Team honors — all  at 24 years old, meaning his ceiling is continually growing.

The Cavaliers instantly became the Eastern Conference favorite when they signed some cat named LeBron James. The Heat still have Chris Bosh and enough of a supporting cast to compete, and the Knicks retained Carmelo Anthony.

Indiana, which at best could still contend for the No. 2 seed in the East with George, will now struggle for the No. 8 seed.

It’s a tough blow for the Pacers, and that’s an understatement. All of the optimism surrounding this team, which has been on the rise over the past three seasons — because of George — is now lost.

I would not be surprised to see a fire sale in Indy, as it now can focus on rebuilding around a healthy George in 2015-16. Let’s see what Larry Bird does with this new hand he has been dealt.

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