Indiana Pacers small forward Paul George might not have the biggest name in the NBA, but he has one of the best games. The lanky smooth forward exploded onto the scene in the last few years as a defense-first, complete combo wingman, earning him All Star honors and a Team USA invite. Now he is done for the upcoming season. His broken leg this weekend in Team USA training has potentially wiped away one of the game’s up and coming stars and removed a whole team out of possible playoff contention. The 6-foot-9 all star averaged nearly 22 points, seven rebounds, and three and a half assists last season for the Pacers, numbers that will be impossible to replace. With George now on the mend, after what was blueprinted to be a casual team scrimmage, scrutiny should follow.
Issues with the court layout at Las Vegas’ Thomas and Mack Center and how close the stanchions are to the actual court will surely be addressed. The strenuous USA tryouts, and the owners’ thoughts on their star players participating in summer competition, will arise as well. The Pacers will have some serious things to ponder too. After last season’s late collapse, another playoff loss to the Miami Heat, and the summer subtraction of the enigmatic Lance Stephenson, is it time to blow up the team with George likely to miss the entire 2014-15 campaign? George’s injury was gruesome enough to only question whether or not he will play next season, and if he will ever be the same player as before. The 24-year-old is young enough to absorb the injury and the proper rehab time to ensure a full return, but it is never an exact science when it comes to players and sports injuries, especially broken fibulas.
After Derrick Rose’s successful return, displaying the speed, explosion, and quickness that are his trademarks, we may be seeing a substitution of power in the NBA Eastern Conference. The Pacers are bound to downsize to a middling conference team, which could still qualify as an eighth seed in the East while the Chicago Bulls could be set for a return to the top with Rose back to full strength and the addition of Pau Gasol to go along with Joakim Noah and a emerging strong starter in Jimmy Butler. Indiana has run neck and neck with the Miami Heat over the last couple of campaigns, but with LeBron James now in Cleveland, the Pacers/Heat rivalry could be a thing of the past. No series in the Eastern playoffs over the last few summers has been as entertaining and competitive as the Heat vs. Pacers and suddenly, in one summer, that series is now buried.
George’s injury will definitely have a ripple effect throughout the league from the competitive side to the political piece. It would not be a stretch to imagine George not returning to full strength until the 2016 season. In the meantime the Pacers could be finished, which would be a nightmare after the team renewed George with a five-year, $90 million extension last season. The team could entertain trade ideas should the Pacers be abysmal over the next two seasons. With so many possible scenarios, George’s injury has the potential to affect significantly the NBA. George may not have the big name but he definitely will have a big impact, without him even playing.