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StraightHoops Is The #1 Basketball Blog On The Web - Hoops Every Day
August 2, 2014

By Anthony J. Fredella

LAS VEGAS, Nevada - By now, we have all seen the devastating injury suffered by Paul George last night in the Team USA scrimmage at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. If you haven't, be warned, it's pretty gruesome - Kevin Ware-ish gruesome. Our thoughts and prayers for a quick and full recovery go out to Mr. George. But now, whether we want to think about it at this moment or not, there are going to be some lasting effects on the basketball world in the aftermath of this horrific injury to one of the NBA's brightest, young stars. ​​​​

That obviously begins with what this injury does to the Indiana Pacers and their prospects for the upcoming season. It utterly destroys them. It absolutely crushes any hope of the Pacers returning to the Eastern Conference Finals. Sorry, but it is absolutely true. With a fracture of this magnitude, Paul George most likely misses the entire 2014-2015 NBA season. Without him, the Pacers are not an upper echelon team in the East by any stretch of the imagination. You may not like to hear that if you're an Indy fan, but deep down you know it's true. With a mediocre point guard, no shooting guard or small forward, an aging - albeit still effective - power forward and a soft center that disappeared last season when the Pacers needed him the most, Indiana will struggle to even make the playoffs. Write that down. I was not a fan of Larry Bird allowing Lance Stephenson to bolt for Charlotte, but now that loss is even more crushing as the Pacers have no one to put the ball in the basket. If any competing team in the Eastern Conference could not afford to lose it's star, it was the Pacers and Paul George.

George's injury, and the aftermath of its effect on the Pacers rattles not only Indy, but the entire East. With a healthy Paul George, the battle for the Eastern Conference Crown was most likely between the newly revamped Cleveland Cavs, the Chicago Bulls and a healthy D Rose, and the Pacers. When you take the Pacers out of the equation, it's just a two-horse race - assuming Derrick Rose comes back as Derrick Rose. If he doesn't, pencil LeBron & Co. into the Finals - and that's regardless of whether or not they get Kevin Love or stick with Andrew Wiggins. But with the Pacers dropping from that top tier, it opens up the East even wider. Last season the Toronto Raptors earned the #3 seed out of the Atlantic Division. With the Cavs and Bulls both in the Central, the Raptors, or the Washington Wizards out of the Southeast, can move up to a #2 seed. The Rapts fell to the Nets in the 1st Round last season, but the Wizards knocked off the Bulls before falling to the Pacers. Would anyone want to face the Wizards in the 2nd Round this season without home court advantage? No, they would not is the correct answer. And what about Charlotte? The #7 seed who was swept by the Heat in the first round has picked up Lance Stephenson this offseason and seems likely to play with a lot more confidence this year. That could be dangerous for some folks. And what about those Nets, or even the Knicks? Yeah I said it, the Knicks. Carmelo Anthony is back and Phil Jackson is in the mix trying desperately to add some pieces around the franchise's one and only star (I love the trade for Jose Calderon and drafting Cleanthony Early in the 2nd round was an early Christmas present for NYC). With the East probably worse off than it was a season ago - if that's even possible - the Knicks could find themselves in the playoffs, with maybe even a #6, or even a #5 seed (sorry, I'm getting carried away now). And while the Miami Heat did lose the best basketball player in the universe, they do still have Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. Assuming D Wade still has any cartilage left in his knees, the Heat are still a playoff team, especially now Indy falling from the mix. The way I see it playing out right now, the East will look like this come playoff time in 2015: (1) Cavs, (2) Raptors, (3) Wizards (4) Bulls, (5) Heat, (6) Bobcats, (7) Nets and (8) Knicks. ​

But there is another major effect that Paul George's injury will have on the basketball world. With the loss of George, the Pacers are going to be in a tough position all season long. The NBA is a business. Each franchise has assets, and those assets are their players - their bigger, more important assets being their star players, like Paul George. Without their assets, the franchises cannot conduct their business of basketball and trying to win basketball games. So, teams need to protect those assets the best they can to preserve their own interests. Losing George widely affects the Pacers organization's ability to win basketball games and generate money for the franchise. Seeing that, and seeing how it will play out this season, it is going to come to the point where franchises don't allow their stars to play for USA Basketball, or for their respective home countries. And that is going to suck. But it is going to be a reality. After seeing what we saw last night, if you are the Oklahoma City Thunder organization, are you not holding your breath every single time Kevin Durant jumps for a block or a rebound? You bet your ass you are. Same with the Bulls and Derrick Rose, and the Rockets and James Harden, and so on. Unfortunately, we may move back to the point where we're seeing either a lower quality of professional players representing their countries, or, to a further extreme, amateurs. While the loss of Paul George is going to cost the Indiana Pacers a lot of basketball games and, in turn, millions and millions of dollars, it may also cost us the thrill of watching LeBron, Durant, Anthony Davis, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love win another gold medal in the 2016 Summer Olympics. ​