On a night that was intended to mark the return of Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose from a devastating knee injury, Indiana Pacers All-Star Paul George gruesomely broke his right leg during Team USA's exhibition game at the Thomas & Mack Center on Friday in Las Vegas.
George underwent successful surgery to repair the open tibia-fibula fracture, USA Basketball said in a release early Saturday morning, and is expected to remain in the hospital for about three days. George will "probably" miss the entire 2014-15 NBA season, one source close to George told Yahoo Sports' Marc Spears.
Pacers president Larry Bird said in a statement Saturday morning that it was too early to speculate on a specific timetable for George's return, but the team is hopeful Paul will return to Indianapolis next week to continue his recovery.
"Our initial discussions with our doctors and the doctors in Las Vegas have us very optimistic," Bird said.
Early in the fourth quarter Friday, George attempted to block a shot by Rockets guard James Harden but landed awkwardly, his leg buckling against the basket stanchion. While the extent of damage was unclear immediately after the injury occurred, the severity of damage to George's leg was immediately apparent, with teammates and coaches unable to mask their concern.
WARNING: The footage is graphic:
As teammates and fans looked on, George was treated on the floor for 15 minutes before he was taken to the Las Vegas Hospital for Special Surgery. Moments later, the remaining minutes of the game were canceled, with coach Mike Krzyzewski addressing the crowd about the injury to the Pacers star.
News of the gruesome injury quickly spread across social media, with NBA stars immediately voicing words of support:
Man just landed and got a message about @Paul_George24. Made me immediately sick to my stomach!! Praying for u a speedy recovery homie!!!— LeBron James (@KingJames) August 2, 2014
Prayers go out to @Paul_George24 and his family! Keep ya head up G!— James Harden (@JHarden13) August 2, 2014
Prayers up to @Paul_George24 hate to see that happen to anyone.— Blake Griffin (@blakegriffin32) August 2, 2014
Similarly, NBA Commisioner Adam Silver released a statement regarding the injury:
Commissioner Adam Silver Statement on Paul George Injury pic.twitter.com/1gcZ7SNdar— NBA (@NBA) August 2, 2014
George helped the Pacers reach the Eastern Conference finals last season, and they were expected to remain a championship contender, despite losing Lance Stephenson in free agency. George's absence for what appears to be at least much of the season changes that.
"There is no question about the impact on our team, but our goal is to be as strong-willed and determined as Paul will be in coming back," Bird said in his statement Saturday morning. "Our franchise has had setbacks in its history but has demonstrated the abilities to recover. Paul will provide the example of that off the court and it is up to the rest of us to provide that example on the court."
Despite what is certain to be a long road to recovery, Paul George himself seems to be keeping a positive mindset, as he thanked fans and friends for their messages of support:
Thanks everybody for the love and support.. I'll be ok and be back better than ever!!! Love y'all!! #YoungTrece— Paul George (@Paul_George24) August 2, 2014