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Paul George ruled out, buzz starting to take its toll

With no end in sight to the will-he-won't-he speculation, know that cautiousness will prevail where uncertainty and constant inquiry abound.

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Momentarily nipping the will-he-won't-he saga in the bud, the Indiana Pacers have already ruled Paul George out for Monday night's contest against the Houston Rockets:

Up until Saturday's game against the Brooklyn Nets, the Pacers had not made a practice of mentioning George in the team's official injury releases. As such, it is possible that the change in practice was made in response to Brian Windhorst's recent tweet which alleged that the team's two-time All-Star could return "as early as" last Saturday:

While it is not completely outside the realm of possibility that George could still make a return to the court yet this season, when it comes to making a comeback this week, the source himself said, "I don't know where that came from."

On whether he wants his first game back to take place at home or on the road, the All-NBA caliber defender admitted the moment would mean more at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, "It would be better to come back here," said George. "I think I owe it to the fans for them to get the first glimpse of my first night on the floor."

After tonight's home match-up with the Houston Rockets, the earliest George could be introduced as No. 13 in Indianapolis would be next Sunday against the Dallas Mavericks after the team returns home from a two-game road trip. Of course, this is just more inquiry and mere speculation, something that the two-time All-Star readily admitted is starting to grow old.

"Honestly, it's getting annoying," said George. "I think for everybody. People are waiting to see me out there. I'm waiting to get out there. When the time comes, it is going to steamroll and I'm looking forward to my first game."

Of course, when that first game actually takes place still remains a mystery.

"I still don't know when my return date will be," admitted George. "I wanted it to be March 14, but that obviously didn't happen."

As for whether the team's recent 5-game skid can be somewhat attributed to the uncertainty surrounding his return to play, the franchise player seemed non-committal.

"I don't know," he said. "... I didn't want them to look at it as, 'We're just trying to hold on until Paul comes back.' I wanted them to go out there and compete for (themselves), and then me coming back was just adding some power or some firepower to this team. I think the buzz is definitely taking a toll on everybody."

Independent of whether or not the will-he-won't-he speculation is starting to become a distraction for his teammates, George remains committed to making sure he is as near to 100 percent as possible before he comes back. Though he admits that actually playing will likely bring him nearer to that 100th percentile, he mentioned that he still has some work to do when it comes to getting up to the level of his teammates this late in the season.

"There's going to be rust for sure," said the two-time All-Star. "You've got to look at it that these guys have been playing 5-6 months now and are well-conditioned and gearing up for the most important part of the season. Their mindset is well beyond where mine is right now as far as playing, so I've just got to get it up to that level."

While only he can judge his own level of conditioning or mental preparedness, George (with minimal defense) did show off his handle and ability to get up on the jump shot ahead of Saturday's game against the Brooklyn Nets (vine via @thejoshbaker).

With no end in sight to the will-he-won't-he speculation, know that cautiousness will prevail where uncertainty and constant inquiry abound.

"We're just being smart about the situation," explained Paul George. "When the time's ready, I'll be back out there."