When Paul George suffered a devastating leg break in a 2014 Team USA scrimmage, people said that he would not play for a year, maybe never again.
The incident occurred ahead of the 2014 World Cup when George collided with a basket stanchion, creating an injury so gruesome those of a squeamish nature were immediately told to avoid looking at the internet after the game.
Yet eight months later, George returned to the court for the final six games of the 2014-15 season, with an emotional return in his first appearance back at Indiana’s home court, Bankers Life Fieldhouse arena.
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In the 2012-13 season - George’s third - he had been one of the breakout stars, helping his Pacers side go all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals.
This was where PG first showed he was the real deal as he went toe-to-toe with LeBron James, the best player in the world. His gritty Indiana team were eventually beaten by four games to three by the eventual winners, James’ Miami Heat.
But anyone around the league had now noted, George was a superstar in the making, and it was only a matter of time before he made that step. He came back again the next year with the same attitude and once again had a fantastic season, this time with the Pacers taking the Eastern Conference one seed ahead of Miami.
But once again it was heartbreak at the hands of LeBron and Dwyane Wade, as the Pacers lost game six in Miami to be defeated 4-2 in the Eastern Conference Finals for the second successive year.
And then, suddenly, George’s career was thrown up in the air after suffering his horrific injury live on TV in a Team USA exhibition game. The US would go on to win the trophy without George, and also without Kevin Durant, who pulled out of the squad days after being on court to witness the incident.
He was forced to sit out almost all of the NBA season, managing to progress so far ahead of schedule that he could play a minor part in Indiana’s final few games of the 2014-15 regular season.
Although it was only a couple of cameo appearances, this may have been incredibly important in PG’s return, as it allowed him to become comfortable in game situations once again before the off-season.
That confidence being regained may have been one of the reasons that George was able to explode out of the blocks at the start of this season as if he had never suffered any injury. Many people had described how George had looked impressive heading into the season, with some even picking him as an outside shot for league MVP (He was 40/1 before the season began).
But as the season wore on, and PG, not having played a huge stretch of games consistently at NBA intensity for 18 months, began to slow down, still playing to a good level, and enough to make sure the Pacers were able to capture the seven seed in the Eastern Conference.
Back to form for playoffs
However, since the NBA Playoffs have begun, George has transformed back into the star talent that was on the verge of superstar; carrying Indiana on his back for the entire first round series against Toronto.
The Pacers, thanks mainly to PG averaging 27.5 points per game through six, have forced a decider in Toronto on Sunday night where the have the opportunity to advance to the second round of the playoffs.
Whether Indiana are victorious in game seven or not, George has more than proven himself once again, and is back to where he was two years ago, so expect PG to enter superstar level next season, it’s just a shame it wasn’t sooner.