Larry Bird on Pacers G Paul George: 'I expect him to play this year'
George broke his leg in two places during a Team USA scrimmage on Aug. 1 last year. The 24-year-old described the injury as "...a pain I've never felt before ... like gasoline was on my leg and someone lit a match..." George received a rod through his knee and ankle as part of the surgery to repair the injury.
Bird said that George was cleared to play, but that it was necessary to make sure was properly conditioned before he returns to the court.
"I think he's cleared by the doctors to play, but obviously he's not in shape. Just because he's cleared to play, doesn't mean he's in shape to play," said Bird.
"I expect him to play this year. I hope he does for his own good — not for us to get in the playoffs or anything like that, but just for his own mental state."
George has been sidelined throughout this season while recovering from his injury; the Pacers have gone 30-39 in his absence. The team currently sits a half-game out of the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
George has spent each of his first four NBA seasons with Indiana. He has career averages of 15.3 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.9 assists in 31.8 minutes per game. Last season, George posted 21.7 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game in 80 games.
George called the repeated inquiries about his return "annoying," but has said that he hopes to make his debut this season in front of the fans in Indianapolis.
"It'll be better to come back here. I think I owe it to the fans and for them to get the first glimpse of my first night on the floor," George said, according to the Indianapolis Star.
Indiana hosts the Houston Rockets on Monday.