Basketball / Sports

Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra talks with the media during practice on Thursday, May 22, 2014, at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami in preparation for Game 3 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals against the Indiana Pacers on Saturday in Miami. (David Santiago/El Nuevo Herald/MCT)

Pacers preparing for both Paul George scenarios

INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana Pacers forward Paul George had the look of a player fully capable of competing in a playoff basketball game.

On Thursday, he was seen hitting consecutive 3-pointers on the Pacers practice court. He then made various mid-range shots off the dribble. Finally, he completed a reverse dunk just before the team huddled at halfcourt.

It appeared he was recovered from the concussion sustained against the Miami Heat Tuesday in the Eastern Conference finals but his status will likely remain unknown for a few days. A decision could be announced late as tip-off for Saturday's Game 3 at AmericanAirlines Arena.

The best-of-seven series is tied at 1.

"It's a deal where the trainers did exactly what the book says," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "Go through the protocol with different questions to determine if there is further examination needed."

George wore a red jersey in practice because he was only allowed to participate in non-contact drills. He spent most of the afternoon working with trainers on the side. The extent of his activity was shooting free throws and jumpshots.

Vogel said George told him "he feels good," but there is still concern.

"There are so many steps to the protocol," Vogel said. "I think this is part of it. I don't think this is the last of it."

George sustained the injury when he collided with Heat guard Dwyane Wade in the fourth quarter of Game 2. Wade's knee hit George in the head while they chased a loose ball. George remained in the game but afterward said he momentarily blacked out after taking the hit.

"It's a bang-bang play, two guys going for the ball," Wade said. "I know he stayed down for a while, but then he came right back in the game and I was talking to him a little bit. But you could tell he was a little dazed when he got hit because he stayed down for a while. But he sucked it up and came right back in."

Teammates said George seemed fine after the game. Most were unaware of the severity until the team announced it Wednesday. Guard George Hill said he wants George to avoid rushing back. Last year Hill sustained a concussion during a collision with New York Knicks center Tyson Chandler in the conference semifinals.

Hill missed the following game in the series. Under league rules, any player suspected or exhibits signs or symptoms of a concussion "will be removed from participation and undergo evaluation by the medical staff in a quiet, distraction-free environment conducive to conducting a neurological evaluation."

George has to pass a series of tests before being cleared to play.

"That's something that you can't play with," Hill said. "It has nothing to do with how tough you are. It has nothing to do with being scared or anything like that. Your health comes before all this."

The Pacers will make every effort in the two practices between games to prepare for both scenarios. A portion of Thursday's practice was used to plug in different lineups just in case George is unable to play.

"He's our scorer, he's our go-to player," guard Lance Stephenson said. "It's going to be tough without him. Hopefully, he can get right so he can play the next game."

The Heat are treating preparation as if George will play. An All-Star, he is averaging 19 points, 6.5 assists, and 4.5 rebounds in the series.

"I think every last player would play through it," Heat forward LeBron James said. "It's the conference finals. Obviously, a concussion is very serious. Our concussion test is not as extensive as the NFL. It doesn't happen as much, but, I think all of us would have played through it under the circumstances."

Heat center Chris Bosh added, "It's very tough. You make it this far and you don't want anything to stop you now. Sometimes, you just have to deal with things. It's a very tough situation, but it is what it is. You have to grit your teeth and move forward."

(c)2014 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

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Distributed by MCT Information Services

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