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Paul George ready to show he's back from leg injury

Indiana Pacers' Paul George lies on the court

Indiana Pacers' Paul George lies on the court after he was injured during the USA Basketball Showcase game Friday, Aug. 1, 2014, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher) Credit: AP / John Locher

INDIANAPOLIS -- The rebuilt Paul George is starting to look more his old self.

Maybe he's a little bigger and a little stronger than he was before the gruesome leg injury that cost him most of last season. There is little doubt inside the Pacers' organization that George is ready to play at a high level this season.

"He looks pretty good to me," president of basketball operations Larry Bird told The Associated Press on Thursday. "He runs a little different than he did last year. He looks stronger, he stops better. He looks like Paul George to me."

Before the injury, George was one of the league's rising stars.

Five months after winning the league's Most Improved Player Award, he signed a max contract with Indiana. Five months after that, he made his first All-Star start. By the end of the 2013-14 season, George had helped Indiana capture the top seed in an Eastern Conference still ruled by LeBron James' Miami Heat and he was just starting to rake in some endorsement deals.

Everything changed the instant his right leg snapped during a Team USA scrimmage on Aug. 1, 2014.

Most figured the 2014-15 season would be a complete washout, the Pacers' title hopes were down the drain and the fanfare about George's outside deals would subside.

When George beat the odds and made it back for the final six games last season, he sure wasn't himself. He came off the bench, played limited minutes and missed a dunk in his season debut.

Now, almost 14 months after surgery to repair his broken right leg and with training camp set to open Tuesday, George seems to be regaining his footing.

Coach Frank Vogel said George has been working out in Indianapolis for six or seven weeks. And while the Pacers held their annual golf outing at Brickyard Crossing, the course near Indianapolis Motor Speedway, George was busy pitching the new MyNBA2K16, a companion mobile app to NBA 2K16.

What really everyone wants to know is whether George can reclaim his All-Star form.

"It's tough to say. I'd say he's 100 percent healthy and 90 percent back to the explosiveness, rhythm and timing," Vogel said before teeing off. "That hitch in his step seems to be gone. He just needs to get over that last hump with his rhythm and timing."

Without George, the Pacers missed the playoffs for the first time in Vogel's 4 1/2-year tenure in Indiana and Bird rebuilt the team to conform with the trendy smaller, up-tempo style.

The offseason overhaul also means the 6-foot-9, 220-pound George will be moving from small forward to power forward this season. How much time he'll play there is still to be determined.

Vogel said George is under no medical restrictions and that he would play George less during early preseason games. His workload, Vogel said, would increase throughout October to have him ready to go for the Oct. 28 season opener at Toronto.

But neither Bird nor Vogel expect anything to slow down George.

"Paul George looks a lot different than he did when everyone last saw him in Memphis," Vogel said.

New York Sports