Indiana Pacers star Paul George returns

%22His+play+elevated+to+different+heights+and+his+growth+was+evident.+He+earned+his+second+All-Star+nod%2C+his+second+All-NBA+third+team+selection+and+his+first+NBA+All-Defensive+first+team+honors.%22%0APhoto+courtesy+of+TNS

“His play elevated to different heights and his growth was evident. He earned his second All-Star nod, his second All-NBA third team selection and his first NBA All-Defensive first team honors.” Photo courtesy of TNS

Jordan Ball

After a long road back from his horrific Team USA injury, Paul George finally returned to NBA action.

He was showered with praise by the beloved Pacers crowd when he entered the game, but fans, analysts, and players around the league showed their support too.

George came off of the bench and in 15 minutes of action, he scored 13 points on 5-12 shooting (3-6 from three), two rebounds, two assists and two steals in a 112-89 victory against the Miami Heat.

Early in the season, his return was looked at as a pipe dream because a lot of people doubted if George would be able to return after his gruesome leg injury.

When the injury occurred, it left spectators and his team USA family speechless. There were repetitive questions about George, wondering if he would ever be the same player he was before the injury.

His long road to recovery has paid off, because in Sunday’s game, he showed flashes of brilliance and vintage George-like play.

This is a guy who led the Pacers to the best record in the Eastern Conference last season (56-26) and he single-handedly willed them to the Eastern Conference Finals.

His play elevated to different heights and his growth was evident. He earned his second All-Star nod, his second All-NBA third team selection and his first NBA All-Defensive first team honors.

This season with free agent shooting guard Lance Stephenson signing with the Charlotte Hornets, this was George’s opportunity to show what he could do with more responsibility as “the man.”

Though the injury derailed those aspirations for this season, he still has a big role to play in the Pacers attempt at a playoff berth.

George is being inserted during a crucial time for the Pacers, with five games left in the regular season. They currently sit one game back of the eighth seed and 1.5 games back from the 7th seed.

His minutes will definitely be monitored and we can only speculate how Pacers head coach Frank Vogel will distribute them.

As far as a debut goes, for a player who a majority of people thought wouldn’t be playing this season, he couldn’t have been more impressive in his limited minutes.

George is a legitimate superstar in the NBA, so he doesn’t just affect his team, but the entire landscape of the Eastern Conference as we know it.

His presence changes the way teams will game plan against the Pacers and how they’ll strategically approach a George led team.

The Pacers have clawed all season long to stay competitive with a depleted roster and Vogel has done a noteworthy job, but George has willed himself back in action in a final attempt to help his team get over the playoff hurdle.

After overcoming massive adversity dealing with this injury, he’s changed his number from 24 to 13 and is now able to play basketball again at the highest competitive level.

Whether they make the playoffs or not, the Indiana Pacers, the NBA world and fans everywhere are excited to welcome back one of its brightest stars in Paul George.