Paul George won’t be making his long-awaited return Saturday night.
The Indiana Pacers’ two-time All-Star had circled March 14 on his calendar a long time ago, and he returned to practice three days ahead of schedule on Feb. 26, but his mended lower right leg isn’t ready yet.
“When he gets close,” Vogel said, “we’ll let you guys know.”
Again, that’s been George’s goal all along. The Pacers have said from the beginning they didn’t expect their 21.7-point scorer from a year ago to be able to play this season. Since he returned to practice, Vogel has reiterated they wouldn’t rush him onto the floor. George admitted after his first practice he had “a long way to go.”
George broke two bones in his lower right leg after landing on a basketball stanchion during a Team USA scrimmage on Aug. 1 in Las Vegas. The initial timetable for recovery from surgery was about seven months.
Expectations for the Pacers, who finished with the Eastern Conference’s best record last season, quickly plummeted. And when the season began, so did their play.
After struggling to overcome his injury as well as other key sidelined players including point guard George Hill and forward David West, the Pacers (29-34) have caught fire late in the season with 12 victories in 14 games.
If George were return, at the very least, he gives the Pacers a solid shooter and, at just 24, a seasoned pro who has court savvy and will continue to team’s trend of sharing the ball and succeeding with offensive balance.
Here’s a video of what Vogel had to say when asked Tuesday about George.
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.