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Paul George optimistic about recovery from gruesome leg injury

Marc J. Spears
Yahoo Sports

INDIANAPOLIS – As soon as Paul George crumpled in a heap under the basket during Team USA's scrimmage two weeks ago in Las Vegas, he knew something was horribly wrong.

The bone protruding through the skin of his right leg told him as much. As did the pain coursing through him.

"It felt like gasoline was on my leg and someone lit a match," George said. "Just internally, just on fire. My leg felt like it was in flames. It was a quick five minutes and then my body went into shock, and I immediately took my mind off of what just happened thanks to my docs, my family, both of my parents coming by my side, my teammates coming over.

"…It just felt like a burning sensation throughout my whole leg."

George met Friday with reporters for the first time since breaking his right leg during USA Basketball's scrimmage on Aug. 1. The Indiana Pacers guard used crutches to walk with his right leg encased in a cast from the knee down. The two-time All-Star has a rod in his right leg, which was broken in two places, with pins holding it together in his knee and ankle. He also has begun meeting with a team sports psychologist.

While George has "a little hope" about playing next season, he said it could take a year for him to recover and admits it's likely he will not play. He hopes to begin strengthening exercises next week.

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Paul George is using crutches to walk after breaking his right leg. (AP)

Paul George is using crutches to walk after breaking his right leg. (AP)

"I've been talking to the Pacers staff and my whole training staff and it's really a day-to-day process right now," George said. "I'm really taking it one day at a time. We don't want to put a date on it or put a timeframe on it. I understand that some days I will feel good. Some days I will feel bad. But once I feel great, I know the whole staff will know when it's 'go time.'

"It's something that I think I can overcome. It's a bump in the road, but I will be able to battle through this. It will be a story that I can tell, a testimony that I will have and something that will make me stronger going forward. I don't think it will affect me in a negative way."

George has watched the video replay of his gruesome injury, which happened after his right foot awkwardly crashed into the stanchion at the bottom of the basket after he tried to block teammate James Harden's shot.

"I watched it one time and that will be the last time I see that video," George said. "I really want to put all that behind me."

George's injury has prompted a debate over whether NBA players should play for USA Basketball. He thinks any criticism of USA Basketball is unfair and he still hopes to play for the 2016 Olympic team.

"I can personally say it was a freak accident," George said. "No one has really been injured since USA Basketball has been here. I've never seen someone take a huge injury. I just think it just happened. Freak accidents happen.

"It sucks I was on the bad side of it, but they don't deserve any criticism for this. I would love to still be a part of Team USA in 2016. At the end of the day it's all about representing our country and bringing home the gold."

George expressed thanks for the support he has received from U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski and managing director Jerry Colangelo. USA Basketball players will each wear a patch on their shooting shirts in George's honor in the exhibition games prior to the upcoming World Cup in Spain.

"It's kind of awesome," George said of the patch.

Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are among the many NBA players to reach out to George after his injury. Champion boxer Floyd Mayweather visited George in the hospital. Famed soccer player David Beckham and NBA commissioner Adam Silver also have reached out. George also said he appreciated the get-well cards fans have sent as well as the prayers and well wishes he has received over social media.

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Paul George is greeted by Bankers Life Fieldhouse employees as he arrives for his news conference. (AP)

Paul George is greeted by Bankers Life Fieldhouse employees as he arrives for his news conference. (AP)

While George said all the well wishes have been meaningful, he appeared especially touched by his Pacers teammates who have been by his side since his injury. Pacers coach Frank Vogel and guard George Hill attended the news conference. Many Pacers fans also stood outside Bankers Life Fieldhouse to express their goodwill toward George upon his arrival in his new Ferrari driven by a friend.

"Roy [Hibbert] came in and visited me in the hospital in Vegas and he brought me some gummy bears and he gave me a silk and fur blanket," George said. "The fact that they were there for me … C.J. Watson was there before I went into surgery visiting me in the hospital. …George Hill came over. [Chris] Copeland came over.

"Coach Vogel came to see me from a vacation. That really meant a lot to have my guys there by my side. It is a tough time for me."

George believes the Pacers can still be competitive without him and he doesn't want the fans to lose hope. The Pacers lost guard Lance Stephenson to the Charlotte Hornets in free agency, but added guards Rodney Stuckey and C.J. Miles. George acknowledged that he feels some guilt about not playing next season.

"I believe deep down we can get a lot accomplished this [season] with the additions that we have, the new roles and guys working hard," George said.

George also is changing his number from 24 to 13, which is viewed as an unlucky number. He's making the change so he can go by the nickname "PG13."

"The whole thing behind 'PG13' is just coming into my own," George said. "I feel like I'm at that stage where I'm ready to embrace everything that comes with being one of the young stars in this league."

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