Paul George could miss the entire 2014-15 NBA campaign after the Indiana Pacers playmaker suffered a broken right leg during a practice match by the US Basketball World Cup squad.
Doctors said Saturday that George suffered an open tibia-fibula fracture in a gruesome moment in the fourth quarter of Friday’s match in Las Vegas, played between members of the US squad but for which tickets were sold to the public.
George, 24, underwent successful surgery to fix the fracture but is expected to remain hospitalised for about three days.
Players turned away after seeing George suffer the injury when he landed after fouling James Harden.
“It was difficult to watch the injury that Paul George sustained,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said. “The thoughts and prayers of all of us at the NBA are with Paul and his family.”
Larry Bird, the retired NBA legend and Pacers president of basketball operations, said it is too soon to consider George’s status for next season, which starts in late October.
“Our first thoughts are with Paul and his family,” Bird said on Saturday. “It is way too early to speculate on his return as the number one priority for everyone will be his recovery.
“Our initial discussions with our doctors and the doctors in Las Vegas have us very optimistic. We are hopeful at some point next week Paul will return to Indianapolis to continue his recovery.”
Losing George is a major blow to an Indiana squad that last season reached the Eastern Conference final, losing to Miami.
“There is no question about the impact on our team but our goal is to be as strong-willed and determined as Paul will be in coming back,” Bird said.
Bird also sought to play down any trade talk or signing moves the team might make presuming George’s long-term absence.
“Any discussion regarding the future of our team would be inappropriate at this time,” Bird said. “Our focus is solely on Paul and doing whatever we can to help.”
Bird, a member of the original 1992 US Olympic “Dream Team” of NBA stars, said he still supports having NBA stars play in Olympic and world championship competitions.
“We still support USA Basketball and believe in the NBA’s goals of exposing our game, our teams and players worldwide,” Bird said. “This is an extremely unfortunate injury that occurred on a highly-visible stage, but could also have occurred anytime, anywhere.”