Paul George is one of the biggest success stories in the NBA at present after his stunning comeback from a near-career ending injury just two years ago.
Things have come full circle for PG-13, in some ways. The Indiana Pacers man suffered the horrific leg break during a Team USA scrimmage that robbed him of all but six games of his 2014-15 season.
After returning to record career-highs in points, assists and steals last season, the 26-year-old has proved he can still play at the highest level and indeed, hasn't reached his full potential yet.
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Now, George is on the cusp of playing in the Olympics with Team USA. The small forward told USA TODAY sports that the majority of the battle he faced when recovering from his horrific injury was in his head.
“90 percent of the whole rehab is mental,” George said. “You’re doing the same stuff, day after day, that gets tiring. It’s tedious work rehabbing. That was really the whole battle was how do I keep motivation.”
USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo promised George a spot on the 2016 Rio team as an incentive to get back. Not that George, who was at ease discussing his past at a recent Jeep-sponsored USA Basketball event, even needed it.
“Coach K and I felt he was entitled to that spot,” Colangelo told USA TODAY Sports. “All he had to do was come back,” though Colangelo admitted to thinking the worst after the injury.
After averaging 23.1 points last season and driving the Pacers back into the playoffs, George showed that he is not only an elite player, but a franchise player. His quality is now undisputed, but the California-native insists it takes several small steps to make the big strides he is now.
“It’s literally steps,” George said. “You have to re-train yourself. Have to retrain how to walk, how to run, how to jump, how to cut. You got to get comfortable with that all over again.”
If George goes on to collect a gold medal in Rio, that would be an incredible way to cap his journey off.