INDIANAPOLIS - Paul George is coming back sooner than expected.
The two-time All-Star has been cleared to play Sunday against Miami just eight months after he broke his right leg during a Team USA scrimmage in Las Vegas. He announced his return by tweeting a picture of his game shoes on Saturday morning, and the team then confirmed the news.
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"We're happy to have Paul back in uniform, and this is just another step in his rehabilitation from the injury," president of basketball operations Larry Bird said in Indiana's release. "He has worked hard to get to this point and still has work to do, but it's a positive step toward what we hope will be a full recovery at some point. His minutes will be limited in games he plays as we evaluate his progress moving forward."
When George was hurt in August, it seemed a foregone conclusion he would miss the entire 2014-15 season. But he returned to full practices Feb. 26 and set a mid-March goal to play in games.
It looks as if he is about to achieve that feat.
"The recovery has been a long process and this is another step in the process," George said. "I thank everyone, my family, friends, doctors, our training staff, coaches, the entire Pacers' family for their support and encouragement. I'm excited, but at the same time I'm aware I'm still in a rehab stage and will continue to work to get back to full strength."
Before the injury, the 6-foot-9, 230-pound George was one of the league's bright young stars. His scoring average had improved by at least four points in each of his first four NBA seasons, and the swingman was the league's most improved player for the 2012-13 season.
George also led the Pacers to the Eastern Conference finals in 2013 and 2014, losing both times to the Heat.
His steady progression was stopped cold Aug. 1 when he ran into the basket support during a U.S. scrimmage, breaking his leg in two places.
George had surgery, and then returned to his suburban Indianapolis home three days later. Eventually, he was allowed to travel with his teammates and work out on the side before he was cleared for non-contact, half-court work.
In February, the rehab started to turn for the California native who acknowledged he was longing to play. He made it back to practice three days earlier than team doctors anticipated.
It's still unclear what kind of condition George is in and how long it might take him to return to his old form. But Bird figured that if George could get some competitive work in before the end of this season, it would help him continue his progression during the offseason.