The Team USA showcase came to a gruesome and unfortunate end Friday, August 1, 2014 night, when Indiana Pacers small forward Paul George suffered what appeared to be a serious right leg injury in the fourth quarter and the game was subsequently called off.
As George ran down the floor in pursuit of opposing player James Harden, he slid into the base behind the basket and his leg wrenched in such a way that fans and players alike covered their eyes in horror. It appeared to break just above his ankle. An official announcement of the injury has yet to be made.
“We don’t really know, exactly (the extent of the injury),” said director of USA Basketball Jerry Colangelo. “Everyone saw what we saw, but that’s for the medical team to decide, determine and then make the announcement about what it is and what’s going to take place.”
Players surrounding George and the crowd at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center were nearly silent as medical personnel worked on him. George then left on a stretcher to loud applause.
George’s parents were in attendance and came to the court as he was being attended to by the medical personnel. George was taken to the Hospital for Special Surgery in Las Vegas with his parents and Pacers general manager Kevin Pritchard.
“He appeared quite stoic (as the medical team was attending to him),” said Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski. “They allowed his father to touch him and to comfort him. I thought our trainers did a good job right away making sure that emotionally he was as good as possible.”
Minutes after George left, Krzyzewski addressed the crowd, announcing that the scrimmage would be cut short out of respect for George and his family.
“This is a very tough blow,” Colangelo said. “It’s a first for us in USA basketball to have something like this take place. It’s a tough situation for our entire organization, our coaches and players and very, very emotional. There’s no way the game could have gone on under the circumstances.
“We need to just take a step back before we do anything at all. Our first concern, our primary concern, is Paul George. I wanted to reach out to the Indiana Pacers organization, I have a call into owner Herb Simon. This is a tough blow, not only for USA basketball, but for the Indiana Pacers. And so, as an organization, we’re just going to let a little bit of time go by here before we address rosters or any of that stuff. It seems unimportant.”
The game ended with 9:33 left and the white team leading 81-71.
When the team got back to the locker room, “Jerry addressed (the players), and then I did,” Krzyzewski said. “A very emotional setting. There’s a brotherhood in the NBA, and to me moments like this – a family or a brotherhood shows its heart, shows its depth, and I though that’s what our players showed during that time.”
Colangelo and Krzyzewski afterward made it clear that they wouldn’t be discussing the roster ramifications of George’s absence. Team USA’s talent pool for the FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain was already without LaMarcus Aldridge (Portland Trailblazers), Blake Griffin (Los Angeles Clippers), Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves) and Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs).
The USA coaching staff was hoping to reduce the 20-player pool to 14 or 15 players Saturday, but put off those plans after George’s injury. They have to have the roster trimmed to 12 players before they open the tournament on Aug. 30.
“Everything is on hold right now, and it should be,” Krzyzewski said. “It would be so inappropriate for us to talk about anything else when there’s a serious injury like this.”
In a statement, Pacers president Larry Bird said, “We are aware of the injury sustained by Paul George in Friday night’s Team USA game in Las Vegas and we are obviously greatly concerned. At this time our thoughts and prayers are with Paul. We are still gathering details and we will have an updated statement Saturday, August 2, 2014.”
NBA commissioner Adam Silver sent out a statement after seeing the injury: “It was difficult to watch the injury that Paul George sustained tonight while representing his country. The thoughts and prayers of all of us at the NBA are with Paul and his family.”