NBA PM: Will Paul George Return This Season?

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Paul George Hopes To Play in 2014-2015

Paul George met with the media in Indianapolis on Friday for the first time since suffering the gruesome injury that essentially saw the lower half of his leg snap in half. George, one of the most charismatic and confident young stars in the league, came out of the press conference determined to return to form, even intimating that if the rehab goes well he could be back on the court for Indiana by the end of this coming season.

“We don’t want to put a date or a time frame on [the recovery],” Paul said, adding that he’s “holding out a little hope” in terms of his possibly playing in the 2014-15 season.

Of course, Paul also said he is “very aware” that he could very easily miss all of this coming season. The rehab on the injury is expected to lean toward the longer end of nine to 12 months, and since he’s so young and being paid so much, it’s likely that Indiana will be very careful with him when the possibility of a return does start to become evident.

The plan is to begin the early stages of rehab in August, perhaps as early as next week. In the meantime, George is still processing what happened to him.

“I was in shock,” George said. “I couldn’t believe it was me that this happened to.”

He went on to complain that the criticism Team USA is taking for his injury is “unfair” and added that he has every intention of going out for the Olympic team in 2016.

“I plan on making a full recovery coming back from this,” he said.

Having only watched the tape of the accident once, George talked about how horrible the injury itself actually was.

“When I looked down and saw the bone, I knew it was bad. I had felt pain before, and this was a pain I had not felt,” George said. “It felt like gasoline was on my leg and someone set a match.”

Thankfully, he’s in nowhere near as much pain a couple of weeks later, and now he seems focused on the road to recovery, with his fingers crossed that an early return late next season could be possible. No one would be more grateful to see that happen than Pacers fans, who lined the streets to greet George on his way to the press conference.

“I just want to give a huge thanks to the fans who have been behind me,” George said.

They’ve been supportive, as have colleagues and opponents, but the road to recovery starts now. Is it possible for George to be back by the spring? It doesn’t seem likely, but that isn’t going to stop this talented young player from trying.

Eric Bledsoe to Follow Greg Monroe’s Lead?

It must be awful to be a restricted free agent. Okay, so not awful awful, since even in the worst of conditions these players are making more money in a single season than most of us will make in 20 years, but compared to the freedom experienced by unrestricted free agents, restricted free agents have it pretty hard.

This offseason, for example, two really good restricted free agents have had bad luck on the open market, but it’s hard to blame teams for instead chasing after players that don’t put millions of dollars in limbo for three days when their current employer is likely to match the contract anyway.

For Phoenix’s Eric Bledsoe and Detroit’s Greg Monroe, for example, it was always an unspoken reality that the Suns and Pistons would match any offer tendered to them, so nobody made a substantial offer. Then the money dried up, and the home teams only had to bid against themselves. That, naturally, led to offers that neither Bledsoe nor Monroe loved, leaving them without the max contract offer they (and their agents) felt they deserved.

The players don’t really have a whole lot of control when things unfold the way they have. Bledsoe, for example, wants about $40 million more than the Suns are offering, but he’s not going to get that. Monroe was rumored to have been offered a five-year, $60 million deal, but he refuted those rumors himself on Twitter almost as quickly as they leaked out.

“Can’t reject anything that was not offered to me,” Monroe said on the social media site.

And he’s absolutely right. What he can do, however, is take the $5.5 million qualifying offer on the table, play out the 2014-15 season and then test unrestricted free agency next summer, where he’s likely to see a ton of offers for big money. Teams have been clearing space while the salary cap continues to rise. The money’s going to be there for him, especially since courting teams won’t have to worry about that three-day grace period. Monroe is reportedly leaning toward signing for the QO.

The question now is whether Bledsoe will have the gumption to follow Monroe’s lead on this. It is, after all, extremely rare for a player to take the QO rather than the guaranteed money that an extension would provide, but the path for Bledsoe is a little bit stickier. Not only is he less proven than Monroe, but he has a more checkered injury history, and that on its own is more than enough reason for him to cave and take the Kyle Lowry money he’s being offered by the Suns. Even Phoenix’s great training staff can’t guarantee the kid’s health. It’s hard to see him passing up the cash, though it’s certainly not unrealistic for him to take the same route as Monroe.

Only 14 first-round picks since 2003 have chosen to sign a qualifying offer, so to have two high-profile players do it in the same summer would be a pretty big deal.

Monroe is pretty unique in that he’s healthy, young and experienced; he’s also a big man, and all of that paints a very green picture for Monroe, even though he’s going to have to wait to see it painted.

Bledsoe, meanwhile, doesn’t have quite as much going for him. Now let’s see how good his poker face is.