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George tempers optimism with realism

Pacers star shows refreshing candor in first interview since fracturing leg


As much as Paul George would like to boldly state he will be back sometime during the 2014-15 season, cold, hard reality is something he has grown accustomed to of late.

“I’m holding out a little hope, just personally because I want to be back, but this injury could take a year to fully recover,” George said Friday. “The last thing I want to do is feel like I’m OK and come out early and be vulnerable to injuring myself again.

“So I want to take my time with this but at the same time, if I heal well, you could see trece (the Spanish word for 13) out there.”

In his first public appearance since sustaining the brutally broken right leg in a USA Basketball intrasquad scrimmage on Aug. 1 in Las Vegas, George showed determination, admitted frustration and was remarkably candid about the range of emotions he has experienced in the two weeks since.

George underwent surgery in Las Vegas to have a rod inserted to support the two broken bones, and still has pins through his knee and ankle to stabilize the rod. He returned to Indianapolis a few days later and said he has been passing the time “lounging around, catching up with TV series, playing video games and just enjoying my family.”

Entering the interview room at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on crutches, a cast on his leg from the knee down, George didn’t flinch when asked a variety of questions.

>> On what it felt like at the moment of the injury: “It felt like gasoline was on my leg, and someone lit a match. My leg felt like it was on fire for a quick five minutes.”

>> On what was going through his mind as he lay on the court: “I was in shock. I couldn’t believe it was me that this happened to. That’s the only thing that was going through my head. I was doubting myself. I didn’t know what I did wrong or what had happened for that moment.”

>> On his timeline for recovery: “That I don’t know yet. I’ve been talking with the Pacers staff, my whole training staff and it’s really a day-to-day process right now 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 there’s some days it will feel good and some days it will be bad. But once it feels great, I know the whole staff will know when it’s go time.”

>> On the next step in his recovery process: “Talking with my training staff, I know as early as next week I can kind of start on a little rehab stuff with my knee, keeping the tendon where it’s not out of whack. Talking to Shawn Windle our weight trainer, I can probably start on a few things upper body to kind of get started off.”

>> On the long-term impact of the injury on his career: “Well, I expect a strong left leg, long-term. It’s something I think I can overcome. It’s a bump in the road but I’ll be able to battle through this. It’ll be a story I can tell, testimony I have and something that will make me stronger going forward. I don’t think it’ll affect me in a negative way.”

>> On help from his Pacers teammates: “Roy (Hibbert) came and visited me while I was in the hospital and he brought me a bunch of goodies, brought me some gummy bears, gave me a silk fur blanket to lay on. It was the fact they were there for me. C.J. Watson was there before I went into surgery, and coming back (to Indianapolis) George Hill came over, (Chris) Copeland came over, Coach Vogel came down to see me from being on vacation. It really meant a lot to have my guys there by my side. It was a tough time for me.”

>> On whether the greater challenge will be mental or physical:  “We have a great psychologist here who I actually visited with a couple days ago, so I’ll be very close to him whether we’re on the road or here, just to approach and attack his the right way. … It’s going to be tough to start off but you’ll know what you can do and what you can’t do. The biggest thing is conquering everything with your mind. There’s going to be days when it’s going to be hard for me, tough for me. I’m looking forward to those days; they’ll make me stronger.”

>> On criticism of USA Basketball in the aftermath of his injury: “I think it’s real unfair, the criticism they’re getting. It was a freak accident. … I think it just happened. 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 trying to bring home the gold.”

>> On if he still hopes to play in the 2016 Olympics: “Absolutely. It’s in Brazil.”

>> On the Pacers’ prospects without him and Lance Stephenson: “This team is still competitive. I don’t want the fans to lose hope … this team is going to go out there and compete. I look forward to them still having the same drive, the same commitment, being the team everybody came to love out here in Indiana. Honestly, deep down, I believe this team can get a lot of stuff accomplished this year.”

>> On why he changed his number to 13: “The whole thing behind PG-13 is just coming into my own. I feel like I’m at the stage where I’m ready to embrace everything that comes with being one of the young stars in this league and everyone knows PG-13 is related to television, the whole thing is being able to enjoy the show and being fun to watch.”

>> On the inspiration he draws from mother Paulette, who suffered a stroke 14 years ago that left her bedridden and partially paralyzed but has gradually regained mobility and now walks with the aid of a cane: “My mom battling, being sick and her day-to-day struggles. It always is something for me to really be grateful for her battling, her making it through, and she had it a lot worse than I did. Not one day do I feel like I’m on my own, or in a dark place, or even feel like I’ve got it worse or I’ve got it bad. What she went it through, her testimony, makes it easy for me to fight.”

>> On if he is concerned about being hesitant once he does return: “I never played a game with any hesitancy. It’s the reason why I’m probably in this case. When I go out I play my hardest, I leave it all on the floor. … I won’t be hesitant when I come back.”

>> On if he has watched the video of his injury: “I watched it one time and that’ll be the last time I’ll see that video. Really just want to put all that behind me.”

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