Most good horror movies are Rated-R. They contain lots of violence and blood, a ton of tears and terrors and sometimes...no-so-happy endings. The Nets, despite being just a game and a half-game inside the playoffs in the East, could be watching one right now.
This one isn’t rated-R, though. It’s rated PG-13 -- for all the same reasons. Paul George returned to action Sunday vs. Miami, scored 13 points and looked good as Indiana, on its last playoff legs, destroyed the Heat. The Pacers could be the team on Brooklyn’s back leg like a dog on a mailman. While the Pacers are still a game and a half back, George could push them hard, like he did against Miami. The Nets do hold the tiebreaker.
But the story between the Nets and Pacers isn't just about the playoff race, intriguing as it is. It's about the superstar and the doctor, Paul George and orthopedist Dr. Riley J. WIlliams III, the Nets long-time team physician.
If you saw what happened to the two-time All-Star during a Team USA scrimmage over the summer, you’ll never get the image out of your mind. His leg literally snapped as he fell awkwardly into the base of the basket.
George has made a remarkable recovery --thanks in part to Dr. Williams-- and is looking to reclaim his spot among the ranks of the NBA’s elite. It was Dr. Williams who rushed to the court, treated him quickly and was part of the surgical team later that night.
Jerry Colangelo of USA Basketball praised Dr. Williams, for aiding George that weekend . "He’s part of our medical team. He’s one of the top orthopedic people in the world.," said Colangelo of Williams. "(He) was right on the scene a moment later when it took place."
Want to know how much George appreciates the Nets team physician? Here's his tweet accompanying the small ceremony last Tuesday.
The two developed a great relationship during his recovery. Bleacher Report, in a video series on George called "The Road Back", showed the two of them talking during All-Star Break.
George greets Dr. Williams warmly and the two discuss the speculation about George’s potentially imminent return.
As Bleacher Report notes, the anticipation of his return has gone on for two months. George notes that on Feb. 3, Bird had suggested that George could return as soon as March 1. On Feb. 13, George’s comments to Yahoo Sports reporter Marc Spears suggested that he could return to the Pacers’ lineup by mid-March.
"The media ran with it," George tells Dr. Williams in discussing each wave of speculation.
"I don’t want to rush it, but if the opportunity presents itself (and) I’m feeling good, I’m thinking (positively about) trying to get some games under my feet."
Like any good doctor, Williams listens intently to his patient, getting a sense of his mental as well as physical state. Williams talked about George's first reaction after he went down. "He didn't ask me is the bone going to heal. He asked me when am I going to play again."
A few weeks ago, before Indiana had lost eight of nine, George was worried that hopping back into the lineup would mess with his team’s mojo.
"It's tough to see them go through their lows," George said on March 28, per The Associated Press. "About a week ago I wasn't worried about coming back because they were playing so well. But now, seeing them struggle, it's tough to watch. I'm a part of this team as much as the starting guys are."
Now that he's back, the Pacers face a daunting task, but with George back one they may just be able to handle. They play the Knicks, Pistons then three tough teams. Beating the Oklahoma City Thunder, Washington Wizards and Memphis Grizzlies in their final stretch will be tough for the Pacers. But getting back one of the best players in the world – not to mention those playoff-bound teams taking a final rest – might be enough to end on a high note.
Just one of Brooklyn’s final six games can be viewed as a win: the Orlando Magic on April 15 in the season finale. And they have one more game than the teams they're battling, meaning less rest. Could the Nets win out and capture the eighth or even seventh seed, with the Pacers edging out the Celtics and Heat? Sure. It's not hard to imagine based on how these teams have looked recently.
So, It's possible the Nets and Pacers will both be playing after April 15. That would be the best outcome for Dr. Williams. He's unlikely to talk about it, but he did admit to us Sunday that would have loved to be in Indianapolis for the return.
Yeah, best he sticks around!
For now, Brooklyn is in the clear. But the Nets are by no means safe. It's just like in those scary movies, when the pretty girl appears to have outrun the murderer. She exhales for a moment -- a quick in-and-out breath…And there he is! But in a plot twist, standing behind him, his doctor. Scary and PG-13.