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Pacers' Paul George suffers severe leg injury at USA Basketball showcase

Photo: John Locher/AP
LAS VEGAS -- Pacers forward Paul George suffered a serious right leg injury that led to the early cancellation of a USA Basketball intrasquad showcase at the Thomas & Mack Center on Friday.

The injury occurred with 9:33 remaining in the fourth quarter and Team White leading Team Blue 81-71. George's right leg bent sharply against the basket stanchion as he attempted to contest a layup attempt by James Harden

The Thomas & Mack Center crowd began chanting "U-S-A" and "Paul! George!" to show their support for George, who remained down on the ground for some time as medical personnel attended to him. His teammates circled around him, clapping their support as he was lifted onto the stretcher. George's hands covered his face as he was transported off the court.

"There's a brotherhood in the NBA," USA Basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski said afterwards. "In moments like this, a brotherhood shows its heart and it shows its depth.”

The remainder of the scrimmage was canceled immediately following George's injury, which appeared quite serious and left the building in a state of unease.

“In respect to Paul and his family, the scrimmage is done," USA Basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski said, using a microphone to address the crowd from center court. "We want to thank you for your support.” 

In a post-game press conference, USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo added: "This is a very tough blow. Not so much about us, but about Paul. [The injury] is a first for us in USA Basketball. ... It’s very, very emotional. There’s no way the game could have gone on under the circumstances.”

The 24-year-old George averaged 21.7 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 3.5 assists last season, earning All-Star, All-Defensive First Team and All-NBA Third Team honors. He was a projected starter for USA Basketball's FIBA World Cup team, which is set to begin play on Aug. 30 in Spain.

USA Basketball canceled all post-game media availability for its players. Krzyzewski and Colangelo then briefly addressed the media in a press conference, and both men looked shaken by the night's events.

George's exact diagnosis and recovery timeline are not yet known. Krzyzewski told reporters that George's parents were in attendance at the game and planned to travel with him to an area hospital. Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard was also with George.

Colangelo was adamant that he would not discuss any plans for his roster, which must be trimmed down from a 19-man player pool to a 12-man roster in advance of FIBA World Cup play. Krzyzewski similarly refused to take questions about the actual gameplay, out of respect to George.

“We need to take a step back before we do anything at all," Colangelo said. Our first concern, our primary concern, is Paul George. ... No [roster] decisions for awhile. ... When we’re ready to make a decision, you’ll be notified.”

Pacers president Larry Bird issued a statement on Friday night addressing the injury.

"We are aware of the injury sustained by Paul George in Friday night's Team USA game in Las Vegas and we are obviously greatly concerned," Bird's statement read. "At this time our thoughts and prayers are with Paul. We are still gathering details and will have an updated statement Saturday."

Indiana has advanced to the Eastern Conference finals in each of the last two seasons and were seen as one of the East's top teams entering the 2014-15 season.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver also expressed his concern for George in a statement late Friday.

"It was difficult to watch the injury that Paul George sustained tonight while representing his country," Silver said. "The thoughts and prayers of all of us are with Paul and his family."

Both the nature and severity of George's injury are sure to raise questions. Some NBA owners and executives have long stated their preference for their stars to skip international competitions, as a worst-case scenario like George's injury so directly impacts his NBA team's fortunes. The fact that George's injury was caused in part by the stanchion is also a concern, as the location of the basket support looked significantly closer to the baseline at the Thomas & Mack Center than it is under an NBA arena setup.

George, playing for Team Blue, left the game scoreless (on 0-for-7 shooting) with three rebounds and two assists in 24 minutes.

DeMar DeRozan led all scorers with 16 points (on 6-for-9 shooting), four rebounds and two assists for Team Blue. Mason Plumlee added 10 points and four rebounds in a losing effort.

Harden tallied 15 points (on 4-for-9 shooting) and two assists for Team White. DeMarcus Cousins and Bradley Beal scored 11 points each in the win.

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