The Indiana Pacers received a Christmas present almost nine months early on Sunday, as superstar swingman Paul George made a triumphant return from a ghastly leg injury in a huge victory over the Miami Heat. With George back in the fold, we thought it would be a good idea to assess what we should expect exactly from him in his return to the court.
Controlled fury on a minutes limit
As Larry Bird, Frank Vogel, and George's doctors have made clear, this is the next step in his return -- not exactly an "all systems go" kind of prognosis. With no exhibition play and limited basketball activity in 2014-15, George is unlikely to be able to go full-speed for six-to-seven minute stretches at a time. Expect Pacers management to keep him under a microscope and a minutes limit, unleashing him at pivotal points when he has the wind to make it work.
A more confident and effective supporting cast
Applause is in order for what this Pacers team has already accomplished in 2014-15 while battling a litany of injuries to key players. However, the confidence that guys like Solomon Hill and Rodney Stuckey will be able to glean from George's mere in-uniform presence is likely to be quantifiably incalcuable and invaluable. The NBA is a superstar's league, and when supporting-cast players are given a chance to work to play to their strengths through a guy like George (for a limited time or not), the whole team gets a massive pick-me-up.
No hesitation, no rearview mirror
Just take a look at George's stat line against the Heat: 15 minutes played, 5-of-12 shooting for 13 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals. George's shot per minute ratio of .8 led the team -- even more than Luis Scola (15 shots in 19 minutes), who paced all Indiana scorers with 23 points. George is a natural scorer, and that's not going to be muted regardless of whether he's 60%, 80%, or 100% healthy.
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