Archive for August, 2014

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Doctors and trainers tend to Indiana Pacers All-Star Paul George last Friday night
during the U.S. men’s national team’s scrimmage at the Thomas and Mack Center.
Photo courtesy of Cassy Athena/www.cassyathena.com

W.G. Ramirez

So I purposely took my time in penning my final thoughts on last week, specifically the Paul George situation, so I could listen to everyone speak on it Monday morning.

I’m done listening, and I think part of my ear drums hurt. They may be bleeding.

I’ve heard enough.

The one person who made the most sense was Freddie Coleman, on ESPN’s First Take, and I lend credence to the worldwide leader’s Brian Windhorst since he was here all week, saw what happened first hand and was at the hospital reporting overnight and first thing Saturday morning.

But those with remarks like: “Someone has some questions to answer” about the Thomas and Mack Center and how the court was laid out, or “NBA players should not be competing internationally” need to give it a rest.

Freak. Accident.

Rare. Occurrence.

The last time we saw something like this was when Louisville’s Kevin Ware broke his leg on national television during the  NCAA Tournament. But prior to that, can anyone remember such a thing taking place? This is not something that is unavoidable, or something you think about when constructing a court, or practicing for a game.

You get taped up to avoid sprained ankles. You don’t necessarily think about avoiding compound fractures.

The relationship between the NBA and USA Basketball would not be in question if George didn’t break his leg. Instead, we’d be talking about how well Derrick Rose played, and the fact he looked fantastic in the first quarter and how he was the crowd favorite.

Fact is, Jerry Colangelo, Mike Krzyzewski, George’s family and the rest of the national team were saddened, the one person who was upbeat throughout the weekend and had the most positive attitude, was the person with a rod and screws in his leg. George, though he reportedly couldn’t believe it happened, told visitors and social media he would be fine and would bounce back stronger than ever.

That won’t be until the 2015-16 season. But he will be back.

Joe Rainone, co-owner of Tim Soder Physical Therapy, said George should have no problem returning to the court, it’s just going to take some time.

“You don’t see that many injuries like this,” Rainone said. “I’ve seen more than 1,000 or 1,500 football games – I don’t think I’ve ever seen something like this. Look at all the basketball injuries you see, I’ve never seen an injury like that. I’ve seen plenty of ACLs, I’ve seen a ton of ankle injuries, but I’ve never seen something like this.”

He added that George was extremely lucky to have no damage to his ankle or knee, which will make the healing process much easier.

“With the way his leg went, you just don’t know,” Rainone said. “Whether it’s the ankle or knee, you’d think he had to have more damage than that. But everybody heals at a different rate. They say four to six weeks, but some don’t heal as well as others – some heal sooner.”

Rainone, who has treated many professional athletes from Major League Baseball, the NFL, NBA and PGA Tour, said with as clean a break as George’s appears to be, and because doctors can use x-rays it makes it easier to determine when you the NBA All-Star can begin physical therapy, as opposed to an ACL tear in the knee.

“The nice thing with the bone is you can see the healing process,” he said. “Not only looking at the bone, but you’re looking at the hardware too, to make sure the progress is coming along.”

Rainone said it’s very rare that screws will loosen, but that can happen. And the only time they go in to fix the hardware or take it out is if it’s shiftmatic and there is metal rubbing against anything, it’s not sitting right or causing irritation.

“This is one of those injuries that if you have money and the right people around you, it’s going to expedite things for sure,” Rainone said. “The most likely thing is if everything goes extremely well – and they just need to go well – I say he is back.”

In fact, Rainone said George’s right leg will likely be stronger than before, due to over calcification of the bone. George’s leg will have more density, and will be thicker than it was before. Rainone believes with the proper attention, George should start physical therapy in no more than three months, will be walking on his own anywhere from four to six months and will be back on the court anywhere from eight to 12 months.

Until then, the pundits will continue to weigh in, alerting everyone how dangerous and unnecessary it is to have NBA All-Stars playing for Team USA – the same people who will be cheering for the men’s national team in about a month in Spain.

*shoulder shrug*

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Indiana Pacers star and NBA All-Star Paul George and I chat after the U.S. men’s national team’s practice on Thursday. Photo courtesy of: Cassy Athena/cassyathena.com

W.G. Ramirez

I’ve heard, read and written the same adjectives you’ve all seen when it comes to describing Paul George’s gruesome injury Friday night at the Thomas and Mack Center.

See, I did it again.

Nearly 24 hours later, with about two hours of sleep in between reporting, texting, tweeting, sharing notes, communicating – you name it – about the incident, I can tell you it’s not one of my high points in 27 years of journalism.

Sure, I wrote a story that went global via The Associated Press, but these are not the stories you live for, especially when it’s about a young man with exquisite talent, and is as graceful on a basketball court as Baryshnikov was on stage and who is quite the diplomat in representing the NBA and men’s national team in a respectful manner.

George, considered a sure-bet to make the final 12-man roster for the World Cup of Basketball that starts later this month in Spain, emerged as the Indiana Pacers’ franchise player after averaging 21.7 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists last season. The team figured it would build around him now that Lance Stephenson has bolted to play for the Charlotte Hornets, while many believe he was penciled in as a starter alongside Kevin Durant for the men’s national team.

After undergoing successful surgery to fix a right leg, open tibia-fibula fracture overnight, George has a long road to recovery.

And Indianapolis hearts are breaking as we speak.

But it’s not just because the Pacers have seemingly dropped out of the Eastern Conference picture about three months before the season begins, it’s because it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. I mean, from what I can tell, most of the players in town last week are all nice. Some are just over-seasoned a bit, and perhaps weary of dealing with media sorts. They give their garden variety quotes, do their required media sessions and then move on.

But George was someone who seemed different. He came across the exact way Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski expected every member of the national team to come across, with a sense of brotherhood for his fellow teammates, and a great representative toward our country.

George stopped to speak to me in one of his last interviews of the week (he may have conducted a phone interview between our chat and Friday’s tip-off), just before the players boarded their charter bus after practice on Thursday. And the one thing I gathered was his true grasp for Krzyzewski’s goal of bringing together a fine-tuned group with the best chemistry, based on their personalities.

For George, he said he understood last Sunday, in the team’s first meeting at the Wynn.

“He put the video on and showing the guys celebrating, ya know pulling for one another – it’s a real brotherhood here,” said George, referring to previous national teams that won gold medals in the World Championships and Olympics. “You’re not only representing yourself, you’re not only representing the U.S. – you’re representing one another. And us being ambassadors of the NBA, of the US, we gotta carry that well.”

By the end of Thursday’s practice, George said everyone involved – from the invitees, to the select team, to the coaches and even the trainers – they were all on the same page and it had turned into a celebratory occasion, that being the first week together on a tour that next stops in Chicago on Aug. 14.

“We’re working hard, we’re getting a better understanding of one another, gaining that chemistry and I think really that’s what this is about,” George said. “We all can play ball, but it’s about learning how to play together and building chemistry, which is gonna win us that gold medal. A lot of us can do special things individually, but if we’re not on the same page, it’s gonna be tough.”

George said because players competing for other countries generally play together year round, they already have the camaraderie these group of NBA All-Stars are looking for, and began building in Las Vegas.

“For us to pick everything up in this short coming, it just speaks volumes of how much we’re willing to really sacrifice and make some changes to our games to win gold,” he said.

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Team USA’s Kevin Durant reacts after teammate Paul George collided with a backboard stanchion and broke his leg. Photo courtesy of:
Cassy Athena/cassyathena.com

And one of those sacrifices is putting your body at risk, over about six weeks, to attain global greatness. We saw how rough it can get last month in the FIFA World Cup, with several physical soccer matches. Here we are just one week into the U.S. team’s training camp, and the guy with one of the most infectious personalities and genuine attitudes Krzyzewski is looking for is not only lost from this team, he conceivably might not be ready to train with the Pacers until this time next year.

Durant, who USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo has said is the face of the team, told me he’d grown close with George this past week, especially after the two, along with James Harden, spent extra time after practice rotating in and out of 1-on-1 competitions inside the Mendenhall Center.

Scary thing is, it was exactly like the play in which George was injured, that we watched the trio perform over and over on Wednesday and Thursday.

“It’s been fun, just getting to know Paul,” said Durant, the 2014 NBA MVP. “Of course I know James, but it’s competing against ’em. We’ve been competitive the last two days of playing one-on-one, it’s just getting us all better. We respect each other a lot, there’s a mutual respect for all of our games.”

George concurred: “And we rely on one another, we hold one another accountable for all of our actions. But it’s all about pulling for one another. At the end of the day, we’re all we really have, going over to Spain and playing for a gold medal. So we gotta make sure that everybody feels confident and comfortable, knowing that we got each other’s backs.”

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DeMarcus Cousins reacts after teammate Paul George suffered a broken leg Friday night in Las Vegas.
Photo courtesy of: Cassy Athena/cassyathena.com

That couldn’t have been more evident immediately after George’s right leg crumbled into the basket stanchion 27 seconds into the fourth quarter of the USA Basketball Showcase. Harden reacted first, since it was his lay-up George tried contesting. Durant doubled over looking as if he wanted to burst into tears for his now-closer friend. DeMarcus Cousins was flailing his arms up and over his head repeatedly. Stephen Curry sat worried, visibly shaken, with a towel over his head.

And the leader of the brotherhood, Coach K, he looked like a concerned parent as he hovered over George while the medical team and George’s parents were there with them. You’re not supposed to be emotional, and not supposed to care as a reporter. But it was disheartening, and touching, and sad, and moving – all rolled into one. For about 12 or 13 minutes, soaking up the scene, it was an indescribable role I’m not sure I’d want to be a part of again. I love what I do, but that was downright frightful.

And there I did it again, another adjective.

“There’s a brotherhood in the NBA and to me, at moments like this, family or brotherhood shows its heart, it shows its depth, and that’s what I thought our players showed during that time,” Krzyzewski said at the post-game press conference. “We as a coaching staff just told them to relax. We felt at that point we should not go forward and not to worry about playing again, let’s put all of our focus and all of our energy, whatever, if you believe in a higher someone up there above, let’s focus on that in regards to Paul.

“We focused on prayer, and thinking about Paul George.”

How profound.

And touching.

Not to mention revealing, of that camaraderie and brotherhood everyone spoke of the first four days of the training camp, then exercised Friday night when a member of the brethren went down.

“That’s the type of environment we try to set, and we try to live by,” said Derrick Rose during an exclusive interview. “As a brotherhood playing together, just leaving our egos at the door, that’s what makes us a stronger team.”

Even – and especially – when a member of that team experiences a horrific injury.

See what I did there? Again…

Get well soon PG