When Kevin Love withdrew from playing with Team USA for the FIBA World Cup due to his uncertain trade situation, he received some backlash. After all, there was no real risk of injury, as no NBA star had ever suffered a major injury in international play before.
If Love had any doubts about his decision to withdraw and wanted to reconsider, those doubts were put to rest last night when Paul George suffered a gruesome leg injury early in the fourth quarter of a Team USA intra-squad scrimmage. George was chasing down James Harden, went up to block his shot from behind, and landed at the base of the basket, causing his tibia and fibula to break.
Obviously, this is a big blow for Team USA, but they have more than enough talent to overcome the loss of George. Other than Spain, no team should even be able to compete with the Americans. However, this isn’t about the loss of a good player; it’s about an NBA star suffering a gruesome injury in a setting that, frankly, doesn’t matter much.
When George went down, everyone in the arena immediately grimaced after seeing the severity of the injury. George was looked at for fifteen minutes, and eventually stabilized and taken off on a stretcher. While he was looked at, the rest of Team USA prayed for him, and Coach Mike Krzyzewski immediately canceled the remainder of the scrimmage.
After being rushed to the hospital, George underwent emergency surgery and is expected to remain in the hospital for three days. Not only is his FIBA World Cup over, but he is likely to miss the entire 2014-15 NBA season as well, which would be a crushing blow to the Indiana Pacers and the NBA as a whole.
After George’s injury, the NBA’s brotherhood and closeness was on display. Players from all over the league immediately sent out tweets to show support for George, and Kyrie Irving was seen sobbing after the scrimmage because of the injury.
The injury has drawn comparisons to the leg injury suffered by then-Louisville G Kevin Ware, who broke his leg in the Elite 8 of the 2013 NCAA Tournament, ironically against Krzyzewski and Duke. For as gruesome as the Ware injury was, he was merely a role player for Louisville, and his absence was not critical, as Louisville would go on to win the title. Without George, the Pacers will have to scrap just to make the playoffs.
George’s loss is significant for the NBA and Team USA from a basketball standpoint, without question. However, the bigger loss is just the fact that George was an incredible human being, and that he will now have to undergo months of grueling rehab because of an injury suffered in a scrimmage.
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported that the basket stanchions are placed closer to the court in international play than they are in NBA games. In an NBA, George probably lands normally, and the game continues without a second thought about the previous play. This is truly a shame.
The biggest losers in this, other than George and his family, are the Indiana Pacers. Two weeks ago, they seemed to be poised for another good season in the East. Since then, Lance Stephenson signed with the Hornets, and now George is likely to miss the entire season. Even in a weak East, the Pacers may not make the playoffs if Roy Hibbert looks anything like he did in the second half of last season.
That is unimportant right now, however. What matters is the love and support shown by the rest of the league for George. Nearly every recognizable name, from LeBron James to Kevin Durant, showed some sign of public support for the one-time MVP candidate.
Fortunately for George, there was no ancillary damage, which will immensely help his recovery, according to Brian Windhorst. With that said, it is still a devastating injury that has put the entire basketball world at shock. A scrimmage that was supposed to be lighthearted turned into a bad evening for everyone involved. At this point, however, the only thing to do is pray that George makes a speedy recovery and regains his full form soon.