INDIANAPOLIS — Doctors say Paul George's biggest battle is yet to come, and it might take a year or more before he returns to the Pacers lineup.
One day after the two-time All-Star suffered a gruesome open tibia-fibula fracture on his right leg during a USA Basketball intrasquad scrimmage in Las Vegas, the questions grew about George's recovery — and whether he would regain the form that made him one of NBA's most complete players.
"This is a tough blow for not only USA Basketball, but for the Indiana Pacers," USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said.
George, 24, was said to be resting comfortably Saturday morning after surgery. Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird later issued a statement saying he hopes George will return to Indianapolis next week before rehab begins.
"Thanks everybody for the love and support," George wrote on Twitter. "I'll be ok and be back better than ever!!! Love y'all!!"
"The thing about breaking a bone is that if you get it back in the appropriate position, it can be as good as new," said Dr. James Gladstone, co-chief of sports medicine at Icahn School at Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.
Gladstone, who is not treating George, said it usually takes athletes nine to 12 months to completely recover from this type of injury. If that timetable holds up, the earliest possible return for George would be May.
If George misses the entire season, he would have almost 15 months before opening day 2015, a timeline that coincides with Dr. Patrick Kersey's prognosis. Kersey, a physician at St. Vincent Sports Performance in Indianapolis, is the medical director of USA Football and treated Louisville guard Kevin Ware when he suffered a similarly horrific injury during the 2013 NCAA Tournament region finals.
Although Kersey is not George's physician, either, he said it will likely take six to 12 weeks for the bone to fully heal and another six to 10 weeks for George to start walking normally. If all goes well, Kersey said George could be back in six to 12 months, though he warned it might take George 18 months to start playing like his old self.
Teammates, reigning MVP Kevin Durant and LeBron James all used Twitter to offer support, and at the Indianapolis Colts training camp in nearby Anderson, coach Chuck Pagano joined the chorus. "We want Paul to know that we're all family in this city, and our thoughts and prayers go out to him. We've got his back," said Pagano, who missed 13 games two years ago after being diagnosed with cancer.
Bird gave no timetable: "It is way too early to speculate on his return as the No. 1 priority for everyone will be his recovery."
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