INDIANAPOLIS — Paul George is getting back on his feet.
Less than two months after sustaining a gruesome compound fracture of his right leg, team doctors have cleared the Pacers’ two-time All-Star to put weight on his injured leg and begin upper body work in the weight room.
“He’s down to one crutch or no crutches,” coach Frank Vogel said Thursday at the team’s annual golf outing near Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “For the past three or four weeks, he’s been doing core work, upper body work in the weight room, and they want him to put weight on it.”
That’s good news for George, who still hopes to beat the odds and return to the team later this season. Team doctors have told George while it’s likely he’ll make a full recovery, it may take 12 months.
He was injured during a U.S. national team scrimmage Aug. 1 in Las Vegas when his leg snapped after colliding with a basketball stanchion. George told reporters last month that doctors placed pins in his knee and ankle to stabilize a rod that was inserted into the injured leg, which was broken in two places but did not damage any ligaments, tendons, joints or nerves. Three days later, he returned to his suburban Indianapolis home.
Over the past several weeks, George’s workload has been ramping up. He could soon become more involved with his teammates — many of whom have been working out in Indianapolis before training camp opens Tuesday. Some have seen or spoken with George regularly.
“He’s doing great,” said free-agent signee C.J. Miles, who will help fill the scoring void. “He’s in there every day lifting. It just shows his character and who he is, a guy who will do whatever he can to help his team win.”
Vogel knows having George around will provide inspiration for the team, and other players such as All-Star center Roy Hibbert, power forward David West and point guard George Hill will be motivated to disprove those predicting gloom for the two-time Eastern Conference runner-ups in George’s absence.
Vogel believes his 24-year-old star can provide help from the bench.
“I’ve given him a clipboard to chart deflections and contested shots. We can’t just let him sit around,” Vogel said. “Any time you have an opportunity to observe the game or your team or your system, I think it helps you grow your understanding of everything.”
It could help turn George into an even better player when he returns. After this tumultuous offseason, there’s plenty George can learn.
He’s missing friend and teammate Lance Stephenson, who signed with Charlotte in free agency; been involved in a paternity hearing and made the headlines this month after using his Twitter account to opine about former NFL star Ray Rice and domestic violence.
George later deleted the offensive tweets and posted an apology, saying he didn’t intend to “downplay the situation.”
Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird responded a few hours after George’s initial posts with a statement that called the comments “thoughtless and without regard to the subject of domestic violence and its seriousness in society.”
George also issued a second apology, and Vogel said team officials have spoken with George about using social media.
“Larry talked to him a lot about it and I’ve talked to him a little about it,” said Vogel, without elaborating.
The immediate concern is making sure George gets healthy — and figuring out how to replace Indiana’s best all-around player. George averaged 21.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists last season, earning his first All-Star start and a first-team selection on the NBA’s all-defensive team.
While the Pacers did receive a disabled player exemption, it didn’t give the Pacers any salary cap relief and Bird has repeatedly said he won’t go over the luxury-tax threshold.
That means the roster is pretty much set. But Vogel isn’t fretting.
“I think this has been my approach every year, whether you’re a front-runner or an underdog,” Vogel said. “We have everything we need to compete at the highest level.”