INDIANAPOLIS — Paul George has endured some demoralizing moments as he recovers from a broken right leg.
He'd prefer to dress in shorts and a tank top instead of street clothes. He'd rather travel with his Indiana teammates than be left behind, watching the games on TV. And, in a perfect world, he'd be helping the short-handed Pacers win games rather than advising them how to win.
At some point, the two-time All-Star will be doing those things.
For now, he must be patient as the long journey back prepares to take another big step -- limited work on the basketball court, which could begin as early as next week.
"The toughest thing is just that I can't do what I'm here to do and that's play basketball," he said Friday, his first comments in three months. "It's just hard, hard to watch."
George has been a busy guy since snapping his leg in two places after running into a basketball stanchion in Las Vegas on Aug. 1. After undergoing surgery later that night, George returned to Indianapolis to start rehab.
When he spoke to reporters in mid-August, he was getting around on crutches. At the team's media day on Sept. 29, George had ditched his crutches and was walking with a noticeable limp. Over the next few weeks, he was seen taking shots after practice.
With the season in full swing, he has been taking notes during games and consulting with teammates. But George has spent the bulk of his trying to get healthy.
The most recent indication of improvement came when doctors cleared George to start working on a treadmill in a pool. Though he's not running yet, George did shoot 3-pointers after Friday's practice and believes he can make a full recovery before April.
"It's a goal, for sure, to have an opportunity to play this year," he said, noting the pain has almost completely subsided. "We have a good team and one of my goals is to come back and try and help this team out any way I can."
It's more likely the 24-year-old star will miss the entire season.
In addition to losing George, the two-time Eastern Conference runner-ups have their first 12 games without guard George Hill and power forward David West, both starters. Coach Frank Vogel said a bruised left knee will keep Hill out until at least until early December. West, however, could return from his sprained right ankle after Indiana visits defending champion San Antonio on Nov. 26.
Vogel said point guard C.J. Watson could return a "little later" than West, and that swingman C.J. Miles remains day-to-day with a migraine headache.
All the injuries have provided some comic relief for the Pacers (5-7).
"We always joke that I'll be back before George (Hill)," Paul George said, laughing.
But as Vogel waits for the other players to return, he's not going to push his biggest star to do too much too fast.
"It's up to the doctors to see where he's at," Vogel said. "He really hasn't done much activity other than walking around and shooting around. It's still very unlikely he'll play this season."
George insists when he does return, fans will see the same player who went from first-round draft pick to key contributor to starter to All-Star in just four seasons. They also may see a more passionate player.
"I took a lot of things for granted before, so when you lose smoothing like basketball, which is everything to me, it hurts," George said. "I have a lot of love for the game and I think that will show when I come back."
The immediate plan is to start building up the workout regimen and eventually, if the doctors approve, George will begin traveling with the Pacers before season's end.
George says once he's cleared to start running, the recovery will accelerate.
"I'm completely confident we're going down the right path," George said, "and when the time comes, I'll be ready to go."
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