Indiana Pacers forward and franchise player Paul George returned on April 5 in a home game against the Miami Heat. He missed the first 76 games of the regular season due to a gruesome leg injury he suffered during a Team USA tune-up game in Aug. 2014.
Paul George is back for the Indiana Pacers.
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George, the Pacers' franchise player, played for the first time in eight months when he took the court against the Miami Heat on April 5 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, per The Indianapolis Star's Scott Horner. He sustained a gruesome leg injury during a Team USA tune-up game on Aug. 1, 2014.
The player known as PG-13 made his plans known via a tweet on Saturday:
George also told USA Today on April 4 he's excited, but he's setting realistic expectations for himself:
"The recovery has been a long process and this is another step in the process. I thank everyone, my family, friends, doctors, our training staff, coaches, the entire Pacers' family, for their support and encouragement.
"I'm excited, but at the same time I'm aware I'm still in a rehab stage and will continue to work to get back to full strength."
He also told ESPN on April 5 how it feels like to finally be back. "It's almost like being drafted again and getting thrown back out there again for the first time. It's that same feel," George quipped.
George also admitted to ESPN he made the final decision on returning this season:
"It was me. But I had to push it through Larry and the whole front office. But it was me telling everybody I was ready. We kind of knew it would be around this time. I just told them I was ready."
For his part, Pacers president Larry Bird chimed in on George's return, per USA Today:
"We're happy to have Paul back in uniform, and this is just another step in his rehabilitation from the injury. He has worked hard to get to this point and still has work to do, but it's a positive step toward what we hope will be a full recovery at some point.
"His minutes will be limited in games as we evaluate his progress moving forward."
Bird elaborated further on George's situation when he had a conversation with ESPN this weekend:
"He's not going to run as smooth as he used to, but over time he'll get better and better. Just in the last month I've seen a major difference.
"Everybody thinks Paul George is coming back and that he's 100 percent, but he's not 100 percent and he's in no condition to go out and play a 30-minute game."
The ESPN update mentions the Pacers initially had plans of suiting up George on Friday against the Charlotte Hornets, but eventually held back because he "was still working out with a limp." Indiana beat Charlotte, 93-74.
Pacers team physician Tim Hupfer divulged to ESPN a 14-millimeter by 420-millimeter titanium rod was inserted into George's leg bone and also had another surgery in Oct. 2014, something the team had kept secret all this time.
"We did some things to help increase the fracture and stimulate some healing," Hupfer told ESPN. He also confirmed he and his medical staff will check on George to see if he feels any pain in his leg.
George checked in with 5:34 left in the first quarter against Miami. Less than two minutes later, he scored on a running jumper from the right wing for his first points of the 2014-15 NBA season. He scored five points in seven first-half minutes, per Horner.
George wound up with 13 points on 5-of-12 shooting in 14:34 minutes of action in the Pacers' 112-89 win over the Heat on Sunday. He also added two rebounds, two assists and two steals with three turnovers, per Yahoo! Sports.
With the win, the Indiana Pacers are now tied with the Miami Heat for ninth in the Eastern Conference with identical 34-43 (.442) win-loss records, per ESPN. Both teams are just one-and-a-half games behind the seventh-seeded Brooklyn Nets, who are 35-41 (.461) through April 6.
The Boston Celtics occupy the eighth spot in the East with a 35-42 (.455) win-loss record, per ESPN.
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