Kyrie Irving walked out of the tunnel from the locker room to the edge of the court at the Thomas & Mack Arena and started sobbing. Klay Thompson’s eyes were red as he walked to the team bus. And Anthony Davis had a thousand-yard stare as he mulled around the bus.
And that’s what I’ll remember about the working Team USA’s scrimmage.
I didn’t have a good view of Paul George’s injury in real time. I could barely see the stretcher as George was taken off the court. But his teammates’ reactions following the injury is what’s stuck in my mind.
My experience working an event highlighted by some of the best basketball players in the world shouldn’t be remembered like this. I want to recall Kevin Durant’s dunks. Or Derrick Rose’s explosive return. Or DeMarcus Cousins and Tom Thibodeau yelling "ICE!" in unison. Or the teenage girls sitting near me getting a tad flustered when Kyle Korver and Chandler Parsons were guarding each other.
But those will be less than afterthoughts. Instead I’ll remember Coach K taking the microphone at center court and telling the crowd that were going to call the rest of the game. I’ll remember the crowd chanting Paul George’s name as he was taken off on the stretcher.
The rest of the night was filled with glazed eyes from nearly everyone. My knees were weak the rest of the night. I even found myself holding my leg just below the knee. As I drove Mark Jones and Fran Fraschilla back to their hotel, Jones was still in disbelief, as he kept pondering how brutal the injury he witnessed actually was.
I started my day on UNLV’s campus at 7 a.m. Paul George’s injury happened some 12 and a half hours later. I was exhausted by the time the game started, but after George went down I was no longer exhausted.
For the majority of the day it was one of my favorite experiences covering basketball. But it will be the worst memory I’ll have of basketball.