The Indiana Pacers have maintained the stance that Paul George would sit out the entire year and rehab his broken leg in preparation for a comeback in the 2015-16 season.
But Pacers president Larry Bird told reporters Tuesday that he would like the All-Star forward to see some action this season, even as early as March. However, Bird did throw out a stipulation.
"It seems like every week Paul is getting better and better," Bird said according to ESPN. "So if we do have an opportunity to get into the playoffs and [George] can get some games under his belt and get ready to go next year ... I always say if a player is ready to play, they gotta play.
"We're not going to hold him back if he's able to go out there and play. When you're out like that, you lose something. ... I still think it's important if he's able to play, he should be out there."
George endured a horrific accident while scrimmaging for Team USA prior to the FIBA World Championships last summer, and underwent surgery for a compound fracture in his right leg.
The injury came at a critical juncture for the organization after reaching the Eastern Conference Finals the last two seasons with the 24-year-old George at the helm. Last season, he averaged a career-best 21.7 points and 1.9 steals per game as Indiana posted the best record in the East.
With George sidelined this season, the Pacers have plummeted to 12th overall in the conference with a 17-32 record and sit 4.5 games back of the final playoff spot in the East.
George’s teammates have said for quite some time that he’s looked ready for game action as early as last month. Center Roy Hibbert mentioned to the Indianapolis Star on Jan. 22 that George is routinely throwing down impressive dunks during practices, but that he hasn’t participated in any contact drills.
Hibbert was also careful with his statements, and overtly stated he wasn’t sure if George was ready to return to the court yet.
Shortly following Bird’s comments, George may have hinted to his unexpected early return on Twitter.
â€” Paul George (@Yg_Trece) February 3, 2015
George is scheduled to meet with reporters for the first time since November on Thursday, which could mean an announcement or hard timetable is in the mix.