Derrick Rose still remembers the chill that went through the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas on Aug. 1, 2014.
During a Team USA scrimmage, Indiana Pacers star Paul George suffered a gruesome broken right leg when he landed awkwardly at the base of the rim after fouling James Harden. There were immediate fears for George’s career after the extent of the injury became known. Even if he did come back, there was doubt whether the budding Pacers star would ever get close to where he was before suffering the compound fracture.
“Very emotional,” Rose said. “You felt it from the players, the coaches and just the feeling of the crowd.”
Not even 18 months later, George is averaging 25.9 points, 8.4 rebounds, 4.8 assists and is at least back to what he was. Rose – who knows a thing or two about recoveries – is glad to see what George is doing after appearing in six games last season.
“You have to miss a year with an injury like that, so I’m just happy to see that he’s playing good basketball,” said Rose, who practiced fully Thursday. “But just being there put everything into perspective where it’s like you appreciate everything and you can’t do nothing but pray.”
Though it might end up giving the Bulls problems, George’s full recovery is good news. He’s drawn praise from all around the league for his performance, versatility and his dedication to his return.
Count Rose and coach Fred Hoiberg among those singing George’s praise.
“It’s been great. If anything, it gives kids, it gives people that are going through the same situation hope because who would have known that he would have come back this way,” said Rose, who noted he still can’t see how he wants to. “Seems like he’s a better player. He’s understanding the game a little bit more, he’s putting the team on his back in situations where he don’t let them go and be down big, so he’s taking the right shots.
“I think it’s helping him grow as a basketball player.”
Said Hoiberg: “He’s playing as well as any player in the league right now. It’s been good. He’s a guy who obviously put a lot of time and effort into his rehab after his gruesome injury. He’s back in top form.”
That’s helping the Pacers get into their own top form. Indiana’s won six of seven to climb to 9-5 and a half-game behind the Bulls in the Eastern Conference standings.
But despite some uneven performances, Hoiberg’s liked what he’s seen from the Bulls, who have won two of three on their road trip. He’s said the effort has been more consistent of late, including the loss at Golden State when the Bulls could have stolen a win.
“So the effort has been terrific,” Hoiberg said. “If we can keep that going, we’re going to have a chance most nights.”
Note: Rose was asked about his reaction to what’s happening in Chicago, presumably in response to the release of the Laquan McDonald video.
“It’s heartbreaking that people have to go through this, especially here in Chicago where we already been going through the last couple of years of senseless violence,” Rose said. “Now giving them a reason to do the things that they’re doing is kind of devastating.”