Lots of questions after George injury

"There is no question about the impact on our team but our goal is to be as strong-willed and determined as Paul will be in coming back," Pacers president Larry Bird said in the statement. "Our franchise has had setbacks in its history but has demonstrated the abilities to recover. Paul will provide the example of that off the court and it is up to the rest of us to provide that example on the court. Any discussion regarding the future of our team would be inappropriate at this time. Our focus is solely on Paul and doing whatever we can to help.

"We still support USA Basketball and believe in the NBA's goals of exposing our game, our teams and players worldwide. This is an extremely unfortunate injury that occurred on a highly-visible stage, but could also have occurred anytime, anywhere."

It was classy and well-crafted. It brought perspective to what is an incredibly emotional situation. George's health is what matters right now. He's one of the great young players in the game. It's been wonderful to watch him and Durant and Harden go at each other this week in camp, as they played an epic game of King of the Mountain every day after practice.

"We were playing one-on-one, just trying to challenge ourselves," Durant said. "I'm just trying to get better; that's why we like playing against the best. The Bible says, 'Iron sharpens iron.'"

That spirit is what these players have come to love about their time on the national team. It's where they measure themselves against the best. They learn from each other. They push each other. As the saying goes, "Game respects game."

It's hard to see that spirit dying. But it's also hard to see how these players get back on the court anytime soon after being on the court for that horrific injury Friday night, or whether their franchises will let them.

Ultimately, that will be a choice for each player and each franchise. As USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo said Friday night, now is not the time to make any decisions like that.

In the immediate aftermath of a franchise player going down, one who is about to start a five-year, $90 million deal that represents the deepest investment in Pacers history, there was an outcry in front offices of the dangerous downside of playing for the national team. This has long been an issue bubbling below the surface, forgotten during opening ceremonies and on medal stands but sure to flare up again now and perhaps threaten the fantastic capital Colangelo has built by transforming the program over the past eight years.

That thorny conversation is sure to be revisited in the coming days, of course. Questions about the closeness of the basketball stanchion at UNLV will arise, as well. The NBA standard is four feet from the baseline, but in many arenas it is farther back than that. To the naked eye, the stanchion at UNLV appeared to be very close to that range -- and closer than what you'd find in a normal arena.

The NBA will surely investigate the situation. But either way, George is still likely out for the season. A career has been changed, a franchise has been altered. No one in the arena can unsee what he or she saw Friday night.

The players can only learn to live with and play through that fear again.

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