Published On: Wed, Aug 24th, 2016

Paul George says he's 'officially back' after helping U.S. to gold medal

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Shannon Stapleton / REUTERS

It was in a scrimmage for Team USA, during minicamp in Las Vegas ahead of the 2014 FIBA World Cup, that Paul George suffered a traumatic leg injury that threatened his ascendant career.

Just over two years later, George was back in red, white, and blue – this time celebrating a gold-medal victory in Rio. Along the way, he underwent months of grueling rehab, returned to the court, and slowly, steadily rediscovered his form for a diminished Indiana Pacers team, which he very nearly dragged to an improbable first-round upset. He next excelled in a sixth-man role for the U.S., averaging 11.2 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 1.5 steals en route to an Olympic gold that he called “my championship.”

George feels the Rio triumph has brought him full circle, back to the summit of an oft-daunting, two-year climb.

“I just finalized this whole story, put it to rest,” George said, according to David Woods of the Indy Star. “I’m officially back.”

George could’ve said that after posting career highs in scoring average (23.1), assists (4.1), steals (1.9), true shooting percentage (55.7), PER (20.9), 3-pointers, free throws, usage rate, and offensive win shares in a career-high 81 games for the Pacers last season. He could’ve said it after being named to the All-NBA third team and All-Defensive second team. He could’ve said it after virtually single-handedly pushing the second-seeded Toronto Raptors to seven games in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, when he led the Pacers in points, rebounds, and assists while playing suffocating defense.

But being able to come back and do this for his country – which, thanks to that 2014 catastrophe, he’d never represented in international competition – was clearly an important part of George’s journey.

“The fact is, you look back a couple of years and he’s lying on a floor in Las Vegas, not knowing whether his career was over,” said USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo. “Let alone being able to make our team, participate and get a gold medal. It’s a big day for him.”

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