On Friday, Paul George lured the NBA media to check out his new line of New Era Pacers caps by repeating his intentions to begin practicing at the start of March and then begin playing a couple of weeks later.
Hey, we all have to have goals.
On Feb. 5, PG mentioned the same timeline for his return with far less certainty. Yesterday, after his return goals were reported the Pacers put together an official statement on their stars injury situation which qualified the comments.
"I'm still optimistic on my return and I'm hopeful to be practicing by March 1st and hopeful to be playing by mid March."
The decision for Paul's return to practice and games remains with the Indiana Pacers' medical staff and they will not discuss his return or clear his return until the appropriate time.
As they did on Feb. 5, these comments sound like hopes and goals rather than expectations. More importantly, PG's return is not ultimately up to PG but rather the team medical staff. So, again, seeing will be believing but the good news is that those goals remain the same and whether it is mid-March or the start of April, a return sounds more hopeful.
Regardless, there are levels to this return. There's Paul George returning to full-court practice. Paul George returning to playing a few minutes in a game. Paul George extending those minutes. Paul George returning to the starting lineup. Paul George playing like a lead option with the starting lineup. Paul George playing like an All-Star.
It is one thing to be able to play, but to play at an NBA level is a whole different thing. How far he can advance along the continuum stated above will be a factor only if the Pacers can make the playoffs and that effort should not rely on a big impact from PG with 28 games remaining in the regular season.
If you still need to manage you expectations, check out this video from Scott Agness of Paul George playing 2-on-2 at practice on Feb. 4, just ten days ago. As good as PG looks on the court, obviously a long way to go since he makes Roy Hibbert look stable. But these are all steps in the process of returning and as George continue's to push himself to return this season we can all hold out hope for the best-case scenario playing out. I'm just not ready to wager a dime on that mid-March return.
Oh, and did I mention the new line of hats?