Paul George says he owes it to himself as well as the country to play for Team USA in the upcoming Rio Olympics.
The Indiana Pacers’ three-time All-Star forward concedes there’s always risk when playing basketball. Nobody realizes this more than him, considering the last time he wore red, white and blue, he suffered a compound fracture of his lower right leg during a team scrimmage in August of 2014.
“This is a dream of mine to compete for the country,” George said Wednesday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, two days after the American roster was announced. “I was pretty excited to join up.
“I almost owe myself this second chance.”
The Summer Olympics will be Aug. 5-21 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
George, 26, said getting the chance to play with some of the NBA’s best players, including All-Star forward Kevin Durant, factored into his decision. He also received a call two weeks ago from coach Mike Krzyzewski, who advised this was the mentor’s last time coaching the squad.
Because George lost almost a full NBA season due to rehab from the injury, it would be understandable if he had trepidation about playing. Other athletes have also pulled out due to concerns about the Zika virus.
But the Pacers’ best player is confident in his health and anxious to finish what he had started before the injury.
“This completes the story,” he said. “Winning this gold medal is definitely completing the story. It’s a personal achievement.
“I think Team USA will do a good job of keeping us safe. We’ll be kind of out of harms way with the virus stuff. They gave us the protocol, the suggestions of what we should do and how we should travel, what we should pack, so for the most part I feel comfortable with it.”
George joins a roster with two returning gold medalists in Durant and the New York Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony. The other players are Harrison Barnes of Golden State, Jimmy Butler of Chicago, DeMarcus Cousins of Sacramento, Demar DeRozan of Toronto, Draymond Green of Golden State, Kyrie Irving of Cleveland, DeAndre Jordan of Los Angeles Clippers, Kyle Lowry of Toronto and Klay Thompson of Golden State.
Team USA will train July 18-22 in Las Vegas, where George suffered his injury.
“We’ll be playing in a new arena, so we won’t be at Thomas & Mack (Center), so that’s good,” George said with a smile. “I’m not even thinking about it really. My focus will be training and getting better and preparing for Rio.”
The Americans will play a series of exhibition games against China on July 24 at Los Angeles and on July 26 at Oakland, against Venezuela on July 29 in Chicago, then against Nigeria on Aug. 1 at Houston.
America has won gold medals in 14 of 17 Olympics and own a 130-5 (.963) record, including 45-3 in six Olympics with five out of six gold medals since NBA players began representing the U.S. in 1992.
“This is a fun group, a lot of talent,” George said. “Just looking forward to seeing where I can make my mark, where I can unique at.”
He reiterated the understanding there’s always risk. He repeated the statement three times.
“There’s a risk putting my shoes on and stepping out onto the court,” he said. “There’s always risk, but I don’t play the game looking at injuries. I play the game because I love it.”
Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.