For the first time since that now infamous day (August 1) on the campus of UNLV, Paul George participated in full court practice.
"I never get used to watching them from the sideline," said the Pacers' two-time All-Star during Part 2 of Bleacher Report's documentary series entitled "The Road Back" which chronicles the 24-year old's path to recovery after suffering a gruesome injury to his leg during a Team USA blue versus white scrimmage.
To Frank Vogel, George's first baby step away from the sideline was just that - another small incremental step not all that different or dramatic from what he's already been doing in practice the last few weeks. Further tempering expectations, the Pacers' head coach was quick to point out that it would probably be a few weeks beyond the time that he's cleared to play in games before he is actually in shape to play in games let alone regains his rhythm and timing.
"He's got a long road ahead. He's come a long way, but he's got a long way to go still." said Vogel.
George, who just seven short months ago caught a glimpse of his own bone sticking out of his leg, was slightly more willing to reflect on how far he's come in his journey toward recovery.
"It was a big step for me to come out first doing half-court stuff, then get yanked at the end of practice to let guys finish practice," said the Pacers' star with regard to how his first ventures away from the sideline started out. "But to be able to go through a full practice now, up and down, it's a big step for me."
Paul, not unlike his coach, readily acknowledged that he is still a ways off from being game ready. Beyond running, jumping, cutting, and landing on his surgically repaired bone, the team's starting small forward believes the build-up -- seeing how much his leg can tolerate and how it responds to practice -- will be the toughest part of his return to play. George also admitted some frustration with being out there and "not being able to [play] at the level" that he "wishes to." Yet with his unique flair for accentuating the positive, he quickly qualified that statement by saying, "...but I see the strides the coming. I see the old PG coming back."
Though he may see signs of his old self at practice, there is still no firm timetable for his new self to officially return to games.
"I'm still hopeful [of mid-March return]," George said. "That's the date that I wish to return, but I'm a long ways away, still got some steps and some hurdles to overcome. That's still a goal of mine."
Frank Vogel further underscored this by adding, "Paul's not going to be back out there unless he's close to being Paul George."
During Part 2 of the "Road to Recovery," Team USA's Physician Riley J. Williams, MD recalled this memory of Paul George in the immediate aftermath of his injury, "He didn't ask me when is the bone going to heal. He asked me when am I going to be able to play again."
George stayed to put up threes after his first full court practice.
While the two-time All-Star and All-NBA defender may still need to get his body right 100 percent, there is no hiding the signs that the old PG -- at least in mind and spirit -- already appears to be well on his way to coming and being back.