Indiana Pacers all-star forward Paul George is “resting comfortably” after having successful surgery to repair an open tibia and fibula fracture in his right leg early Saturday morning in Las Vegas, according to a statement released by USA Basketball.
George suffered the injury a few hours earlier during a Team USA intrasquad scrimmage at UNLV’s Thomas and Mack Center and brought a sobering end to the game and a week-long training session in preparation for the FIBA World Cup.
After leaving the arena on a stretcher, with rattled teammates looking on in shock and fans applauding, George was rushed to Sunrise Hospital in Las Vegas, where he immediately underwent surgery. Dr. David Silverberg, Dr. Joseph Yu and Riley Williams, team physician for USA Basketball and the Brooklyn Nets, were present for the procedure.
George is expected to remain hospitalized for the next three days, according to the statement.
With 9 minutes, 33 seconds left in the game, George contested a layup by Houston Rockets all-star guard James Harden. George leaped in front of Harden and stretched out his right leg, which immediately bent perpendicular to his body after his foot crashed into the bottom of the basket stanchion. The stanchion at Thomas and Mack Center is much closer — by two feet and two inches — to the baseline than NBA arenas which likely contributed to the gruesome injury, providing little room for a safe landing.
George’s teammates were visibly upset as medical staffers tended to him. Some looked away. Others buried their heads in towels or their hands. At one point, the players and coaches huddled to pray for George. After a nearly 10-minute delay, the game was called with George’s Blue team losing 81-71 to the White team.
“Thanks everybody for the love and support,” George wrote on Twitter. “I’ll be ok and be back better than ever!!! Love y’all!!”
Pacer team president Larry Bird issued a statement on Saturday that read, “Our first thoughts are with Paul and his family. It is way too early to speculate on his return as the No. 1 priority for everyone will be his recovery. Our initial discussions with our doctors and the doctors in Las Vegas have us very optimistic. We are hopeful at some point next week Paul will return to Indianapolis to continue his recovery.
After a miserable bronze medal showing in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Jerry Colangelo took over as USA Basketball managing director and convinced the game’s best players to make international competitions a priority, establishing a pipeline that produced gold medal wins at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, the FIBA world championship in Istanbul in 2010 and the London Olympics in 2012.
NBA executives have debated for years the merits of having the game’s best players participating in international competitions. In the past 10 years, some of the game’s biggest stars have had major setbacks while representing their countries; Pau Gasol, then a member of the Memphis Grizzlies, broke his foot while leading Spain to the 2006 world championship and San Antonio Spurs forward Manu Ginobili injured his ankle while playing for Argentina in the 2008 Olympics.
Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen sparked some controversy two years ago for suggesting a few months before the London Olympics that star players should be paid for participating. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was been one of the most outspoken critics of the policy given the risk for injury. Mavericks forward Chandler Parsons, however, is currently trying out for the team.