"The thing about breaking a bone is that if you get it back in the appropriate position, it can be as good as new," said James Gladstone, the co-chief of sports medicine at Icahn School at Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. "If the muscle is not involved and the bone and muscle are fully healed, then I think he will get back [to his previous form]."
Gladstone, who is not treating George, said it usually takes athletes nine to 12 months to completely recover from this type of injury. If that time table holds up, the earliest possible return for George would be May when the NBA playoffs are in full swing. If George misses the entire season, he would have almost 15 months before opening day 2015 a timeline that coincides with Patrick Kersey's prognosis. Kersey, a physician at St. Vincent Sports Performance in Indianapolis, is the medical director of USA Football and treated Louisville guard Kevin Ware when he suffered a similarly horrific injury during the 2013 NCAA tournament regional finals.
Although Kersey is not George's physician, either, he said it will likely take six to 12 weeks for the bone to fully heal and another six to 10 weeks for George to start walking normally. If all goes well, Kersey said George could be back in six to 12 months, though he warned it may take George as long as 18 months to start playing like his old self.
The biggest obstacle for George may be his own patience.
"It's a challenge because [athletes] want to push the envelope always," Kersey said. "First, he has to get back to a normal life and then the body needs to work in an efficient way. Once those pieces are in place you can kind of start training and then return to basketball."
Bird gave no time table Saturday. "It is way too early to speculate on his return as the No. 1 priority for everyone will be his recovery," Bird said. "Our initial discussions with our doctors and the doctors in Las Vegas have us very optimistic."
George has plenty of fans wishing him well.
Teammates, reigning MVP Kevin Durant and LeBron James all used their Twitter accounts to offer support, and at the Indianapolis Colts training camp in nearby Anderson, coach Chuck Pagano and punter Pat McAfee joined the chorus.
"This is a devastating injury to a great, great player and we want Paul to know that we're all family in this city and our thoughts and prayers go out to him. We've got his back," said Pagano, who missed 13 games two years ago after being diagnosed with cancer.
McAfee, a big Pacers fan, added: "He's a good guy off the court and a baller on the court, and I can't wait to see him back on it and win the Comeback Player of the Year Award."