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George's Status Remains Uncertain For Game 3

by Mark Montieth | askmontieth@gmail.com

May 22

The questions related to Paul George far outnumbered the answers on Thursday.

The status of the Pacers' All-Star forward remains uncertain for Game 3 of the Pacers' Eastern Conference finals playoff series with Miami on Saturday, but most of the signs are positive. George participated in the non-contact portions of Thursday's practice, wearing a red jersey like a quarterback in a football practice who isn't to be hit. He finished with a reverse dunk after shooting around.

George is in the process of going through the NBA-mandated concussion protocol, and his status might not be determined until Saturday.

While coach Frank Vogel said he had “no clue” if George would play against the Heat, teammate George Hill – a veteran of the protocol – was encouraged.

“I think he's reacting really well to everything, so we just hope the best for him,” Hill said.

George was hit in the hit with 6:50 left in the fourth quarter of Tuesday's game at Bankers Life fieldhouse when he dove for a loose ball after deflecting the ball from Miami's Dwyane Wade. Wade kneed him in the back of the head as he went down, smacking George's forehead against the floor. Wade's trailing leg then clipped the back of George's head again as Wade fell.

George lay facedown on the court for a few minutes, declining teammates’ offers to help him up. He passed the in-game protocol administered by the Pacers' medical staff, and returned to the game, but told reporters afterward he had “blacked out,” and had blurred vision the rest of the game, when the Pacers lost their lead and the game.

George now must pass a series of six tests and participate in a complete practice before he is permitted to play on Saturday. Hill, who missed Game 5 of the Pacers' semifinal series against New York last season after being elbowed in the head by Knicks' center Tyson Chandler, has said he “barely, barely” passed the test, and was fatigued in Game 6 because of the strenuous requirements.

Hill said he had to pass a computer test to check his mental acuity, then six individual exertion and agility drills – each lasting 30 minutes – before being allowed to practice with the team. Those included running, bicycling and treadmill. He had to practice for one hour, non-stop, with the team to complete the test.

The questioning at Thursday's practice took on a Watergate-like “what did you know and when did you know it” quality, with the Pacers' medical staff and George's honesty coming under scrutiny by reporters. The bottom line of the responses was that his teammates and coaches didn't realize he might have suffered a concussion until after the game, when he spoke with reporters, or until the next day.

Vogel said he is preparing for Saturday's game with and without George. He did not reveal who would start if George can not play, and used “hodgepodge” lineups in Thursday's practice.

“We've got great depth,” Vogel said. “I think we got guys that can fill in and not play at Paul's level, but we have to adjust. Teams have to adjust to injuries all the time and I'm sure we would do that.”

Backup point guard C.J. Watson, who was among those working with the starters, said he doesn't expect to be part of the starting lineup if George does not play. He believes Vogel would go with a taller lineup.

Noteworthy:

Lance Stephenson was fined $5,000 by the NBA front office on Wednesday for “flopping” in the third quarter of Tuesday's game, a penalty that appeared to be assigned primarily because he lay on the court, with his head propped on his left arm, for a prolonged period. He had reached in to try to deflect the ball from LeBron James, but was called for a foul. He fell after James bumped him in return.

“I don't think I flopped,” Stephenson said. “I think I tried to sell LeBron bumping me, but I think I overreacted on the floor. I was definitely upset with the call I got more than me just laying there.”

David West had to leave Tuesday's game briefly in the fourth quarter after being poked in the eye. He said Thursday, however, that's he's fully recovered.

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