Pacers Press Conference With Paul George
At the moment of impact, when Paul George's leg broke in two places and the trajectory of his career was altered, the feeling was unforgettable.
“It felt like gasoline was on my leg and someone lit a match,” he said.
Now that the pain and shock have worn off, George is focused on his comeback from the broken leg suffered in a Team USA exhibition game on Aug. 1 in Las Vegas. Meeting with the media for the first time since then on Friday, he talked optimistically of his return, even holding out a small glimmer of hope that it could happen as early as the end of the upcoming season.
Other highlights of George's press conference:
- He has no bitterness toward USA Basketball and hopes to be a member of the 2016 U.S. Olympic team.
- He “deep down” believes the Pacers can remain a competitive team next season.
PHOTOS: Paul George Press Conference
George was accompanied by his parents, Paul and Paulette, and teammates George Hill and Roy Hibbert listened to the session from a back room. He thanked all the people who have reached out to him, including the likes of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and soccer start David Beckham.
See Also: Teammates Offer Support For Paul George
An edited transcript of the 30-minute question-and-answer conversation follows:
Q. What have the last couple of weeks since the surgery been like?
A. They've been tough. I can't lie, they've been tough. But as the weeks go on they get a little easier. As of now, it's kind of been just lounging around, catching up with TV series, playing video games and just enjoying my family. You lose sight of that stuff. Me being out has given me time to catch up on those things.
Q. Can you update us on what your timeline is (for recovery)?
A. 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 a time frame on it. Understanding some days are going to be good and some days are going to be bad.
Q. What do you expect the long-term impact of this injury to be, positives and negatives?
A. I expect a strong left leg long-term (laughing). 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's a story I'll be able to tell, a testimony I'll have – something that will make me stronger. Going forward, I don't think it will affect me in a negative way. There's so much stuff to take from this, as far as being a part of this team, being able to be kind of a mentor to our younger guys and help them along the way. I'm really taking this in a positive way. I get to sit back and watch the game and just learn.
Q. (Team USA coach Mike Kyzyzewski) said in the immediate moments after you fell you were stoic. Could you take us back to that and what was going through your mind as you lay on the court?
A. I was in shock. I couldn't believe that it was me this happened to. That's the only thing that was going through my head. I was doubting myself. I didn't know what I had done wrong or what had happened. But after it happened I remember the training staff coming over and being by my side and holding me down and telling me to stay calm and not look at my leg. That definitely helped me to not panic. It helped a lot having that trainer come over by my side and (keep me calm).
Q. When did the severity of it all hit you?
A. When I looked down and saw my bone sticking out, I knew it was bad. I felt pain before and this was a pain I've never felt before. So I knew how bad it was as soon as it happened. Immediately I was shifting to the whole grind coming back.
Q. What specific things have your teammates done to help you through this situation?
A. Roy came and visited me while I was in the hospital in Vegas. He brought me a bunch of goodies. He brought me some Gummy Bears. He gave me a silk and fur blanket to lay on. C.J. Watson was there before surgery, to visit me in the hospital. (After I got back) George Hill came over, (Chris) Copeland came over, Coach Vogel came down to see me, from being on a vacation. That really meant a lot to have my guys there by my side. It was a tough time for me.
Q. Athletes are used to working with their bodies, so I guess the physical part of this is something you can wrap your head around pretty easily. Mentally, is that the bigger challenge, the time down, the time away from your game and do you have a plan to deal with the mental challenge of all this?
A. We have a great psychologist here (Dr. Chris Carr), who I visited with a couple of days ago. So I'll be very close to him, whether we're on the road or here, just to approach this the right way. But again, I'm not looking at this as a negative on my career. It's something I will overcome. I plan on making a full recovery from this. It will be good for me to sit back and learn. Learn this game, learn the system, learn the ways to help myself when the time is right for me to come back.
Q. What do you think of the criticism for USA Basketball? Do you think it's fair or unfair, and can you see yourself playing for them again?
A. I think it's really unfair to get the criticism they're getting. It was a freak accident. No one has been injured the whole time since USA Basketball has been here (as far as) a huge injury. I just think it happened. Freak accidents happen; they don't deserve any criticism for this. I would still like to be a part of USA Basketball in 2016. At the end of the day it's all about representing our country and bringing home the Gold.
Q. Do you believe the basket supports or other obstacles at the end of the floor should be moved farther away?
A. I'm not even sure. At this point I'm looking forward to the recovery and to getting back. I'm trying with my best foot to walk forward.
Q. Is there any chance you'll play this coming season, maybe at the end of the year? Has there been any discussion about that?
A. No, there hasn't. As far as I'm concerned, it will be a wait. I'd love to come back this year … I understand there might be a possibility that I won't be back this year. I'm very aware of that. But if I do have the opportunity to make a comeback, I look forward to it. But if not, I don't mind taking a year off to get better for the next season.
Q. What's left for this team? Fans want to know how good this team can be now.
A. This team is still competitive. I don't want the fans to lose hope, lose sight of what coach Vogel built, Larry (Bird) put together, what KP (Kevin Pritchard) put together, Herb (Simon) put together. This team is going to be a team that goes out there and competes. I look forward to them still having the same drive and the same commitment and being the team everybody loves in Indiana. I honestly, deep down believe this team can accomplish a lot this year with the additions we have and the new roles, guys working hard. I've seen Roy taking another step with his game working with Kareem, and George Hill's been here putting in a lot of work. David West comes back 20 pounds lighter, but he's always ready. I look forward to him taking control of this group, and coach Vogel as well, leading us to another conference championship.
Q. Any part of you feel a little guilty for not being able to help your team this year?
A. A little bit. A little bit of me does. I take every summer (as being) very important when it comes to preparing for the season. This year was going to be a huge year for me. I had told myself that countless times, so not being out there to start the year off, I do feel guilty about that. Everybody is putting in so much work to get back to where we want to get to this season. For myself not to be part of that, it hurts. It hurts.
Q. Of all the people who have reached out to you over the past few weeks, celebrities and fans, which ones mean the most?
A. All of them, whether it's kids three and four years old to Floyd (Mayweather) coming to Vegas and visiting me. All the cards I've received, all the prayers that have been sent up. Whether it's social media for fans sending Get Well cards. NBA friends and celebrities reaching out … I can't say either is more important, it's all been important during this process.
Q. In terms of 2016, are the Olympics still something on your table?
A. Absolutely. It's in Brazil (laughing). No, I look forward to the comeback. I look forward to the opportunity to participate with Team USA in 2016. This injury has nothing to do with my take on playing for my country at all.
Q. Can you describe how they've rebuilt your leg and what's next for you medically?
A. I have a rod down my right leg and I have pins to keep it in place going though my knee as well as my ankle. I broke it in two places. Talking with my training staff, I know as early as next week I can start on a little rehab stuff with my knee, just keeping my tendon to where it's not out of whack. And talking with our (strength) trainer Shawn Windle, I can probably start on a few things upper body to kind of get started off.
Q. How restless are you already and how difficult is it to come to grips with the fact you might not play at all next season?
A. At this point all I can do is sleep and lay down. It's tough for me. I'm used to being active, used to having stuff to do, used to working out, used to being in the gym. I'm very aware of not being able to play this year. That's a huge possibility. At the same time, I still feel I can be part of this team and can help this team off the court.
Q. So it's safe to say this next season is a long-shot, or are you holding out some hope?
A. I'm holding out a little hope, because I want to be back. But this injury could take a year to fully recover. The last thing I want to do is feel like I'm OK and come out early and be vulnerable to injuring myself again. I want to take my time with this, but at the same time if I heal well you could see Young Trece out there.
Q. Is it even possible to describe what it felt like at the moment of impact.
A. It felt like gasoline was on my leg and someone lit a match. Just internally, my leg felt like it was in flames. It was a quick five minutes, and then my body kind of went into shock. I immediately took my mind off of what had just happened, thanks to the docs and my parents coming over by my side, my teammates coming over. That quickly went away but I was in pain for a good five or 10 minutes. Just felt like a burning situation throughout my whole leg.
Q. Has there been one person or one moment or one piece of advice that's fueling you to get past this even in your darkest moments?
A. All I can think about is family. My mom battling being sick and her day-to-day struggles. (Paulette George suffered a stroke and is paralyzed on her left side.) It always is something for me to really be grateful for; grateful for her making it through it. She had it a lot worse than I did. Not one day do I feel I'm on my own or in a dark place or do I even feel like I have it bad. What she went through makes it easy for me to fight.
Q. When you do come back, will this be in your head? When you're running downcourt to block a layup will this be difficult to ignore, or have you thought about that yet?
A. I haven't thought about that yet. I've never played the game with any hesitancy. That's the reason I'm probably in this cast. When I go out I play to play. I play my hardest, I give my all, I leave it all on the floor. Not one moment do I expect to get injured or feel limited on the court. Although I'm not looking at that right now I won't be hesitant when I come back.
Q. Have you watched the video (of the injury)? Do you want to see it for any reason?
A. I watched it one time. And that will be the last time I see that video. I just want to put all that behind me.
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