Larry Bird Says Pacers Won’t Hold Paul George Back If He’s “Ready To Play”

Allowing severely injured players extra time to recover before returning to action is the league’s current trend. Derrick Rose and Nerlens Noel recently missed full seasons due to torn ACLs, and Joel Embiid is on verge of doing the same after breaking his foot this summer. With those precedents plus a prudent team-building strategy in mind, consensus was that the Indiana Pacers would sit Paul George for all of 2014-2015 even if he was healthy enough to play following August’s devastating leg injury. With his star’s status progressing and the the season’s stretch run approaching, though, team president Larry Bird indicated otherwise.

In an eye-opening Q&A with reporters this morning, The Legend said the Pacers wouldn’t hold George back if he was healthy enough to play at some point this season.

Via Candace Buckner of The Indianapolis Star:

“It seems like every week Paul is getting better and better,” Bird said. “So if we do have an opportunity to get into the playoffs and (George) can get some games under his belt and get ready to go next year. I always say if a player is ready to play, they gotta play. We’re not going to hold him back if he’s able to go out there and play.”

“When you’re out like that, you lose something… I still think it’s important if he’s able to play, he should be out there…”

“I have NO clue on whether he’ll play or not, but if he gets healthy and they say he can play and he wants to play we’ll put him out there.”

It’s crucial to stress that Bird doesn’t say George will suit up in 2014-2015. Instead of taking extra caution like the Chicago Bulls and Philadelphia 76ers did with their injured stars, though, Indy will simply allow the two-time All-Star’s recovery timeline to decide his playing fate.

However, whereas Bird is non-committal on George’s future status, coach Frank Vogel has a harder stance:

Despite George’s progress towards full rehabilitation and Bird’s comments, we firmly believe he won’t play this season. There’s just little for the Pacers to gain by adhering to Bird’s old-school logic, plus still no guarantee that George will actually be healthy enough to return – whether Indy can make up ground and steal a playoff berth or not.

Either way, this gives us another chance to post the video below:

While that’s hardly the kind of dunking exploit we’ve come to expect from George, it’s still mighty impressive considering where he was just six short months ago. And considering all the hard work he’s done to get to this point alone, it would be an even bigger shame if it were wasted in early spring by George playing again and suffering a setback.

Patience, Pacers. PG-13 will be back soon enough.

What do you think?

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