The Pacers could have fundamentally shook-up the NBA's playoff picture had they defeated the Grizzlies in their final game of the regular season. Had Indiana won, Memphis would have faced the Los Angeles Clippers in round one while simultaneously locking the team that would go on to eliminate them from title contention (the now Western Conference Champion Golden State Warriors) on the same side of the bracket as the San Antonio Spurs. Meanwhile, Indiana, having earned a playoff berth, would have faced a Hawks team that never quite resembled the squad that took the league by storm back in January when they went the entire month without a loss.
"That would be ideal," George said previously about playing Atlanta or Cleveland in the first round of the playoffs. "I think if that happens the story kind of writes itself. That would be ideal, especially if we go against Atlanta in the first round because we were the first seed last year. That's a rematch they want for sure as well."
Yes, one game could have potentially changed everything, had Paul George not felt a pop in his calf during his team's regular season finale:
At the time, the Pacers said he had a sore left calf and listed him as "questionable to return," but the unsettling scene which unfolded, with him being carried by David West and Donald Sloan to the bench, felt far more ominous. Following the game, the Indianapolis Star's Candace Buckner reported George had only suffered a "calf strain."
A moderately tame setback in comparison to the eight grueling months of rehabilitation the two-time All-Star endured after having broken his leg during a Team USA scrimmage last summer.
But this latest injury, George revealed at the Caroline Symmes Memorial Celebrity softball game at Victory Field, likely would have cost him the entirety of the playoffs, via the Associated Press:
"It scared me a lot because I felt the pop and I heard the pop. I knew that was not good," George said before being asked whether he could have played -- if Indiana had made the playoffs. "I was done. It would have been at least a four- or five-week thing."
Though the fallout from George's injury means it is probably finally time to put all those "what-if" questions to bed regarding the Pacers' playoff chances, the time off has reportedly already done the franchise player's body a world of good:
"I'm dunking on both legs, and if we were in the Finals tonight, I'd be ready for LeBron," George joked before the first pitch at a celebrity softball game. "I guess I should say I'd be ready for the Warriors."
One win over Memphis may have drastically altered the league's postseason landscape, but one loss to the Grizzlies afforded Indiana's injury riddled roster the much needed opportunity to recuperate while, with any luck, netting them a solid player with the No. 11 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.
Which means, maybe when the playoffs come around next season, the whole team will be "ready for LeBron."
For more on the charity softball game and Paul George's recovery, check out the links: