The options aren’t exactly plentiful.
If Paul George does not pass all the tests in the NBA concussion protocol and is unable to play in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals in Miami Saturday night, Pacers coach Frank Vogel will channel his inner Thibs, tell the world his team still has enough talent to beat the Heat, and then trot out either Rasual Butler or Evan Turner in place of his best player.
Not just his best player, in fact, but one of the best players in the NBA, the guy who carries the most responsibility offensively, and tackles the toughest assignment defensively.
“It’d be tough,” said Lance Stephenson. “He’s our scorer, our go-to player so it’d be tough but hopefully he can get right so he can play the next game. That’s our scorer, that’s our guy. Not having him in the game would definitely hurt us.”
Butler, who turns 35 today, last started a playoff game in 2009 when he was David West’s teammate with the New Orleans Hornets. He has played a total of 32 minutes in this postseason, and those two 3-pointers he made in Game 2 represented his first buckets.
He did start two games late in the regular season when Vogel rested the starters, producing 29 points on 11-of-27 shooting, so there’s that.
Turner also started those same two games, totaling 37 points, 15 rebounds and 15 assists, but has done little since.
Turner is a younger, more athletic and more skilled, but none of that has manifest in the playoffs. He totaled 26 points off the bench in the first four games of the first-round series against Atlanta and has largely vanished since, appearing in just seven of the subsequent 11 games, totaling 13 points. Turner missed the first two games against the Heat while recovering from strep throat.
Either one of those sound like an attractive option against LeBron James?
“(George’s) absence would definitely be felt offensively and defensively,” Butler said. “He is our guy on both ends of the floor, so it would be a big loss but we’re confident the other guys can step up. We have guys like David West, George Hill, Roy (Hibbert), who will be more assertive on the offensive end if that happens.”
But just what are the chances George would miss the game? He showed no indications of symptoms after practice Thursday, laughing, joking and dunking while going through a non-contact workout after practice.
While that was most decidedly a positive sign, it was hardly conclusive.
Vogel said he had “no clue” if George would be available, and wasn’t sure when the answer might be revealed.
“Not today, maybe not tomorrow,” he said Thursday. “I’m not sure, it might not be until Saturday.”
That was the case when George Hill sustained a concussion during Game 4 of the second-round series against the Knicks last year. Elbowed in the head by Tyson Chandler, a play on which no foul was called, Hill remained in the game, played exceptionally well, scored 26 points and didn’t notice any symptoms until the following day.
That game was a Tuesday. Hill missed Game 5 on Thursday and returned for Game 6 on Saturday – the same time frame facing George. He was not cleared to return until going through full-contact work during the team shootaround the day of Game 6.
“I wouldn’t be surprised at all (if he doesn’t play),” Hill said. “It’s something you can’t play with. It has nothing to do with how tough you are, has nothing to do with being scared or anything like that. Your health comes before all this.”
George is averaging 21.5 points in theses playoffs. Turner and Butler have combined for 21 points in the last two rounds.
Talk about circumstances that can cause headaches, dizziness and nausea.