WEDNESDAY, 8:04pm: The Pacers will apply for the disabled player exception, tweets David Aldridge of NBA.com. This confirms that Indiana has ruled George out for the season. The exception requires medical prognosis of a player’s absence for the entire year. If granted the exception, the Pacers will have $5.305MM to spend to replace George through free agency. The exception doesn’t reduce George’s cap hit, meaning Indiana is unlikely to use the full exception and exceed the luxury tax line. Applying for, receiving, or using that exception will not preclude George from returning in 2014/15, should he make an unexpected speedy recovery.
SATURDAY, 8:33am: Sources tell Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com that doctors believe Pacers swingman Paul George is likely to miss all of next season after suffering a horrific injury to his right leg early in the fourth quarter of Friday’s Team USA intra-squad scrimmage in Las Vegas. No official prognosis has been given yet.
The injury occurred when George attempted to block a transition layup by James Harden, and George’s leg came down awkwardly and buckled as he knocked into the basket stanchion. George then remained down on the court as trainers, U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski and members of George’s family who were present rushed to his side. His leg was placed into an air cast and after approximately 15 minutes, George was taken to an area hospital for evaluation and surgery. The scrimmage was then cancelled in light of the devastating turn of events.
In a statement released after surgery was completed, posted by Windhorst, USA Basketball confirmed that George suffered an open tibia-fibula fracture and is expected to remain hospitalized for about three days. Windhorst’s sources also informed him that there didn’t appear to be additional damage besides the fractures. Dr. Riley Williams, a Team USA orthopedist who also works with the Nets, was with George, notes Windhorst.
The most recent example of a similar injury and possible recovery time is the leg injury that then Louisville guard Kevin Ware suffered during the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Ware missed roughly nine months of action, then returned to the court during the 2013/14 season, but after nine games decided to redshirt the remainder of the season to allow the leg to fully heal.
The injury to George has already caused a number of NBA owners and GM’s to rethink their stance on letting their star players participate in international play, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports (Twitter link). One GM told Wojnarowski that this would be a “game changer” going forward. Marc Stein of ESPN.com (Twitter link) notes that the current NBA deal with FIBA states that teams can’t bar players from international competition unless there’s “reasonable medical concern” going in. This was recently demonstrated when the Spurs denied Manu Ginobili permission to participate in the FIBA World Cup due to the recovery time needed for the stress fracture in his leg.
USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo wouldn’t comment on the specifics of the injury, or the impact on participation in USA Basketball, writes Windhorst. But Colangelo did say, “This is a tough blow, not only for USA basketball but for the Indiana Pacers. And so as an organization we’re just going to let a little time go by here before we address rosters. … It seems so unimportant in the scheme of things. When you have something like this, it puts things in perspective.”
The team had planned to reduce the 20-player pool to 14 or 15 players today but put off those plans after George’s injury, notes Windhorst. Coach Krzyzewski said in regards to those plans, “Everything’s on hold, and it should be. It would be so inappropriate for us to talk about anything else when there is an injury like this.”
As for the impact on the Pacers, if George is indeed out for the season, then Indiana would be able to apply for a disabled player exception. The exception would be equivalent to the amount of the $5.305MM non-taxpayer’s mid-level exception. Disabled player exceptions are for either half the player’s salary or the mid-level, whichever is less–which in this case would be the mid-level seeing as George is scheduled to make $15,937,290 during the 2014/15 season. But the Pacers would be unlikely to use the entire disabled player exception due to them being roughly $2MM shy of the tax line.