NEWS OF THE MORNING
George’s path to recovery will be arduous, clearly defined | Love deal likely by the end of the month | Cuban rips the IOC in wake of George injury | George, family have battled adversity before
No. 1: George’s path to recovery will be arduous but also clearly defined — Paul George has a rugged road ahead of him as works his way back to All-Star form after suffering an open tibia-fibula fracture during Team USA’s scrimmage Friday night in las Vegas. While the injury is rare for NBA players, medical experts see the injury often and provide some context on what the Indiana Pacers All-Star is facing with his recovery and rehabilitation. NBA.com’s Jeff Caplan provides some context:
The good for news George, an All-Star in each of the last two seasons, is that while the injury is rarely seen in basketball, it is a common sight among orthopedic surgeons. The procedure to repair it is also very common, according to Dr. T.O. Souryal, head physician for the Dallas Mavericks and a renowned orthopedic surgeon in sports medicine who is also president of the NBA Team Physicians Association.
“This is orthopedic surgery 101. They know what to do with an open tibia fracture,” Souryal said. “We see this injury in car accidents, we see this injury in motorcycle accidents, we see these injuries with people falling off a ladder, we see these injuries on the soccer field, so this is a relatively common orthopedic trauma injury. There’s a long track record of dealing with this injury and dealing with the issues that are unique to this injury.
“What makes this unique is that it was videotaped from five different angles.”
George, 24, faces an exhaustive rehabilitation process that begins immediately with simple, muscle-firing exercises that can be done from his hospital bed. As George moves away from early recovery challenges — such as infection — in the initial weeks following surgery, his rehab will escalate incrementally in intensity, complexity and duration as the bone heals over a period that typically spans 4-6 months. Souryal cautions that healing time for the tibia can be slow and involve complications, but he noted that for a young, well-conditioned athlete such as George, odds are high for a clean healing process.
Once the bone heals, the real work for George begins with what Souryal terms the late challenges. Regaining motion in his ankle and knee are crucial as George then begins the gradual strengthening process. A regimen that includes — at various phases — a stationary bike, walking on the underwater treadmill or zero-gravity treadmill and ultimately weight machines and leg presses is typical.
“During the recovery and healing, both of those joints can be involved in the injury, so he has to work on getting his mobility back, getting his knee moving normally and getting his ankle moving normally, and ultimately getting his strength back,” Souryal said. “During the stages, sometimes you’re on crutches, sometimes you’re in a machine or in a cast and you suffer a tremendous amount of atrophy. Part of the recovery is going to involve strengthening, and that by itself takes a long time to get your strength back.”
Will Carroll, sports injuries writer for Bleacher Report, recently spoke with Dr. Bert Mandelbaum about George’s injury. Mandelbaum is one of the top orthopedic physicians in sports medicine and said George can expect to be on crutches for six weeks.
“Then the athlete gradually progresses to rehabilitation, physical therapy and cross training,” Mandelbaum told Carroll. “Once the fracture healing is strong, the athlete will return for progressions to practice and games. Once completed, most athletes can perform at pre-injury levels.”
No. 2: Parting of ways between the Timberwolves and Love by the end of the month — There’s no need for any more posturing from either the Minnesota Timberwolves or the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Kevin Love trade is going to happen. Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor says it’s likely to happen as early as the end of the month. The Cavaliers cannot trade Andrew Wiggins, the No. 1 overall pick in last month’s Draft, until Aug. 23. So we should expect to see Love alongside LeBron James in training camp in October. Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press explains:
The Timberwolves say now that they expect to trade disgruntled all-star Kevin Love and that a deal is expected Aug. 23 or Aug. 24.
“I’m saying it’s most likely because Kevin has made it pretty clear that that’s what he wants to do,” Wolves owner Glen Taylor told the Pioneer Press.
Taylor’s preference, though, is that Love remain in Minnesota. The August dates for a trade are because that’s when the Cleveland Cavaliers officially can deal their first-round draft pick, Andrew Wiggins, to the Wolves.
Cleveland remains the strong bet for Love to join LeBron James. But the Wolves continue to listen to offers from Chicago and Golden State, with Philadelphia expected to be part of a three-team deal.
A Love trade could give the Wolves a brand new look, with multiple players coming and going.
“I think when you move somebody like Kevin, who’s been an all-star, that you’ve got to get a number of players on your team that have the potential of replacing him,” Taylor said. “Flip(Saunders, Wolves president) has looked at this team and offensively, he’s got a pretty good team. Defensively, it’s got to be better, so I think that’s where some of the areas will be replaced.”
No. 3: Cuban rips IOC in wake of George injury — If anyone was going to chime in on the Paul George injury situation and what it means for the future of quadrennial competitions and the involvement of NBA players, it was Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. He’s never been shy about opposition to the current format and made his stance clear again Saturday to Marc Stein of ESPN.com:
Long known as the NBA’s most outspoken critic of international basketball, Cuban has again questioned when NBA teams allow their players to play for their national teams while taking on the bulk of the financial risk in the event of injury.
“My thoughts go out to Paul,” Cuban told ESPN.com on Saturday. “I really feel for him.”
Cuban then reiterated his longstanding criticism of the NBA’s agreement with FIBA, which stipulates that only players themselves can refuse their country’s invite to play for the national team except in the event of a “reasonable medical concern.” The San Antonio Spurs invoked that clause this week to prevent Manu Ginobili from representing Argentina at FIBA’s upcoming Basketball World Cup thanks to the lingering effects of a stress fracture.
“The [International Olympic Committee] is playing the NBA. The IOC is an organization that has been rife with corruption, to the point where a member was accused of trying to fix an Olympic event in Salt Lake. The IOC [pulls in] billions of dollars. They make a killing and make Tony Soprano look like a saint.
“The pros in multiple sports are smart enough to not play when they are eligible free agents. But teams take on huge financial risk so that the IOC committee members can line their pockets.
“The greatest trick ever played was the IOC convincing the world that the Olympics were about patriotism and national pride instead of money. The players and owners should get together and create our own World Cup of Basketball.”
No. 4: George, family have battled adversity before — It should have surprised no one that Paul George seemed to be the calmest person in the Thomas & Mack Center Friday night after he suffered that gruesome compound fracture of his right leg. George and his family have battled and dealt with adversity before. SI.com‘s Lee Jenkins provides the details:
Paul George’s parents are named Paul and Paulette, a source of mild amusement and great inspiration. George grew up in Palmdale, a desert town one hour north of Los Angeles, where basketball prospects are as rare as blizzards. When he was 10, shooting hoops in his driveway, he heard the scream of an ambulance careening around the corner. He wondered where it was headed. Then he saw his father carrying his mother through the front door of their home.
“We all rushed to the hospital, and that night, the doctors declared her dead,” George said, in an interview last year. “I remember grabbing a blanket and sleeping on the floor next to her bed.” Paulette had suffered a stroke and was diagnosed with two blood clots on her brain. But the doctors were wrong. She remained very much alive.
“It took me two years to be able to walk and talk and see again,” Paulette said. “He watched me fight. I think that experience made a big impact on him. He saw, ‘My mom is really struggling, but she’s not giving up. She’s strong.’” Paulette marveled at the way her only son picked up the household slack and she started calling him Man. The nickname stuck. Family members still call him Man for the toughness he demonstrated as a boy.
George thinks about his mom, now partially paralyzed on her left side, at the best of times: when he’s hanging 40 on the Blazers, when he’s discombobulating LeBron James, when he’s deep in the Eastern Conference Finals. Her example will provide perspective as George begins the long recovery from a compound leg fracture suffered Friday night during a Team USA scrimmage in Las Vegas.
Paul and Paulette were in the stands at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center, watching their son chase down James Harden on a fourth-quarter fast break. They saw his right foot land awkwardly against the basket stanchion and rushed to his side. They were with him at the hospital, where he underwent surgery, and tweeted defiantly: “I’ll be ok and be back better than ever!!!”
Unlike many NBA superstars, who were prodigies by 16, George can recall what it’s like to be at square one. He wasn’t invited to join an AAU program until the summer before his senior year of high school, and even then, he was placed on the B team. Fresno State was the only major local college to offer him a scholarship, and in two years with the Bulldogs, he lost more games than he won. He went scoreless as a sophomore against San Jose State. Indiana gambled by drafting him 10th overall in 2010 and head coach Jim O’Brien planted him on the bench. When George predicted at a team dinner that he would be an All Star by his third season, one Pacer laughed.
George was right, and if you conducted a MVP poll this January, he probably would have finished third behind LeBron James and Kevin Durant. He slumped in the second half, along with the Pacers, and finished ninth in the voting. But he still averaged a career-high 21.7 points and made the all-defensive team. He was proof of how NBA players transform themselves in the summer, from benchwarmers to headliners, by working when no one is watching. George creates comprehensive checklists every off-season of skills he plans to burnish: ball-handling, shooting, post-ups. He once told Pacers head coach Frank Vogel he would return from the break a completely different player
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