With the NBA playoffs only around the corner, rumours are circling that injured Pacers All-Star Paul George could make his long awaited return from injury if Indiana can successfully clinch their postseason spot.
A possible return this season was not something many expected after George devastatingly broke his right leg in a Team USA scrimmage on 1 August 2014, particularly with the Pacers poor play through the early half of the season and unlikelihood of even qualifying for the postseason.
Flash forward to March 2015 and the Pacers have re-grouped winning eight of their last ten games and moving into the 7th seed in the East.
Now with the opportunity to make some noise in the playoffs and turn around a disappointing season, the Pacers superstar is being touted to come back and be a difference maker.
To believe that the Pacers will make a deep playoff push, even with the proposed return of PG-13 is a more impressive piece of fairy-tale than Cinderella.
Bringing George back would be wasteful and possibly damaging.
Those who believe in fairy-tales need to open their eyes to reality and stop living inside a Walt Disney picture.
Let’s look at the facts and break down exactly why bringing back arguably the NBA’s third best small-forward isn’t as appealing as it sounds.
For one, there is no way George will be able to play at a level that even closely resembles his best.
Last season was probably PG-13’s coming out party, where he established himself as one of the league’s best with ability that rivalled Kevin Durant and LeBron James.
We saw his offensive potency rise substantially, putting up a career-high 21.7 points per game, while still maintaining his trademark defensive intensity.
George was the key factor in Indiana finishing as the East’s top seed and rivalling LeBron James’s Miami Heat.
Presently, the injured Pacers leader has only just in the last month resumed full-training and by his own admission is not at a level that will benefit his team.
“Part of me is (thinking), they’re playing so well, they’ve come together, to shake up the chemistry and add another body, another player in there,” George said.
“I don’t want to be that guy that destroys what these guys have going.”
The two-time All-Star not being ready is a sentiment that head coach Frank Vogel is echoing.
“He’s not ready yet, but when he is, we’ll let you know,” Vogel said
The guy isn’t ready. If your team’s best player isn’t ready and believes he could hold the team back then you don’t put him out on court.
At best George would be a bit player, or more likely an Achilles heel that gets targeted and damages the team and his own confidence as a result.
Not to mention the inherent risk of aggravating his injury.
It’s just not smart to tell him to go out there and expect magic to happen.
If you can somehow ignore the glaring performance issues, looking at the Pacers probable playoffs match-up should all but end the case for George to play.
In the current standings, Indiana are 7th with what appears to be an unrealistically crossed four-game gap from the Milwaukee Bucks, while only one-game ahead of both the Charlotte Hornets and Miami Heat.
That means the Pacers will at best clinch the 7th spot and be destined to face the 2nd seed Cleveland Cavaliers, who are unlikely to gun-down the league’s best Atlanta Hawks.
Facing Cleveland, or Atlanta for that matter, are not series that George could even remotely ‘ease in to’ and not a series that you could afford to have a weak link for.
At his best PG-13 is a stifling opponent for LeBron, but in current shape he could not hope to match it with the man who is well-positioned to take out his 5th league MVP.
If Indiana were in better playoff positioning and facing, perhaps a struggling Chicago Bulls or Toronto Raptors, then maybe George could somewhat ‘ease in’ and get ready to make difference deeper down the road, but against the Cavs you may as well be forfeiting the series.
When weighing up the facts, the speculation about Indiana’s favourite son returning is utterly unrealistic and appears to be the petulant US media’s attempt to make ‘news’.
Take the words from the horse’s mouth and stop thinking that the Pacers can make the Finals off-the-back of some Sleeping Beauty like kiss from a prince (PG-13).
“I think if it gets to the point that these guys are in the playoffs and we’re talking about coming back, we might as well let these guys finish that out,” George said.
As they would say in brass-tough southern Indiana courtrooms – CASE CLOSED.
Written by Juan Estepa @EstepaJ