LAS VEGAS -- Any NBA team employee's worst nightmare occurred Friday night in Las Vegas when Paul George's right leg buckled against the basket stanchion, his fibula and tibia fractured and his 2014-15 season likely over before it started.
USA Basketball announced George, the Pacers' All-Star forward, underwent successful surgery overnight and will remain hospitalized for three days. What can't be fixed, for some, is the fear of losing a star during a commitment to the national program.
Derrick Rose, who looked away in horror after seeing George's injury, is with Team USA, trying to return from successive significant knee injuries suffered while playing for the Bulls. General manager Gar Forman reiterated organizational support for Rose's endeavor on Saturday, as did George's management.
"We still support USA Basketball and believe in the NBA's goals of exposing our game, our teams and players worldwide," Pacers President of Basketball Operations Larry Bird said in a statement. "This is an extremely unfortunate injury that occurred on a highly visible stage, but could also have occurred anytime, anywhere."
Under Chairman Jerry Colangelo and coach Mike Krzyzewski, USA Basketball has run an exemplary program on and off the court. Nowhere has that class been more evident than postgame Friday night. That's when both men, visibly shaken by George's injury, thanked the crowd for their understanding of the scrimmage getting called and handled an emotional situation with empathy.
Still, questions will linger whether the program should continue to use NBA millionaires.
"It's a first for us in USA Basketball to have something like this take place," a somber Colangelo said. "I haven't had time to think about anything quite honestly except Paul. So ramifications and all that stuff, that's for another time. We need to step back."
Added Krzyzewski: "Look, anything can happen anywhere. (Friday), it happened during a basketball game. It doesn't mean it will happen again and again and again. It means that it happened right now. And we need to take care of right now appropriately and then move on."
Krzyzewski is right. Then-Bulls guard Jamal Crawford tore his ACL playing in a pickup game with Michael Jordan at Hoops The Gym in July 2001.
Last Wednesday, Forman said there is no organizational fear over Rose's participation and reiterated he's hopeful Rose makes the 12-man roster that travels to Spain for the FIBA World Cup. For a player who has logged just 10 games in two seasons, repetitions trump rest.
Rose said following Monday's first practice in Las Vegas that he's fully committed to making the final roster. Whether that stance changed in light of George's injury is unlikely but unknown. Like all players, who were understandably emotional, Rose wasn't made available to reporters by USA Basketball officials.
"I'm really trying to make it," Rose said Monday. "I sat out for two years. It's a chance for me to work on my whole body. Get my legs strong. Get my upper body strong. Just take advantage of it."
Before George's injury, Rose displayed plenty of the speed and explosiveness that defined his game pre-injuries. He attacked the rim, particularly in transition, with fervor. He often picked up full court defensively.
And while he committed three of his four turnovers in rapid succession late, Rose played with a joy and spirit that he admitted he lacked at the start of last season.
"When I came back last fall, I felt like it was damn near a job," Rose said during last week. "I wasn't smiling. I wasn't enjoying the game. I was trying not to mess up. It was too much going on and a dark period of time.
"It changed with the second injury. I knew I couldn't be mad or be in that place for a whole year again. So I really attacked my rehab and it really was fun this time. I was around the team a little bit more this time. I was on the bench. Being in practice, being in the meetings, it made me feel like a basketball player again."
That's what Rose is and what George will be again. Injuries stink no matter if they occur with the NBA or USA Basketball. The Bulls understand the Pacers' pain.
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