George continues comeback by earning video game cover

INDIANAPOLIS – Paul George didn’t like his video game rating.

So he worked on changing it.

After making a remarkable comeback from a broken right leg, the Indiana Pacers’ three-time All-Star was rewarded by being put on the cover of the wildly popular NBA 2K17 video game. The official announcement came Wednesday night, and George is eager to find out just what his new rating will be.

“I would hope it’s something that’s very generous,” George said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “I’ll wait to see. I don’t get the secrets. Besides, I couldn’t tell you anyway.”

The decision and the ability to talk about something other than rehab this summer is another indication of how far the 26-year-old forward has come since snapping his right leg snapped during a Team USA basketball scrimmage less than two years ago.

Before the injury, George looked like he may be the NBA’s next big star. Following it, George missed all but the final six games in 2014-15 and had another scary moment when he was carried off the court in the season finale.

For months, fans wondered if George could ever return to his pre-injury level.

There’s no doubt now.

George won the Eastern Conference player of the month award for October and November and finished the regular season with career highs in points, steals, assists and 3-pointers before an even more dazzling display in the playoffs when he helped the seventh-seeded Pacers push Toronto to seven games in the first round.

Since then, George has taken a short break to travel and rest and plans to begin his off-season workouts sometime next week so he can make an even bigger splash next season.

“They told me it would take up to two years till I was back to normal,” he said. “So I’ll hit that hard the rest of the summer.”

But now George also faces some unexpected off-season changes.

Four days after Indiana bowed out in the playoffs, Larry Bird announced he would not re-sign coach Frank Vogel, whose contract was expiring. The team’s president of basketball operations said he thought the Pacers needed a new voice in the locker room.

“I wouldn’t put it in those terms,” George said. “It’s always great to have a different voice, but I thought Coach Vogel’s voice was a very powerful one for a team that went from being a mediocre team to a powerhouse team. But that’s the direction, that’s the way it goes.”

On May 16, Bird promoted Vogel’s top assistant, Nate McMillan, to head coach.

And while George appreciates Bird stayed in house, that Vogel landed another head coaching gig with the Orlando Magic and that there will be some continuity with a new coach already familiar with the Pacers’ personalities, the adjustment won’t be easy for George.

“Frank was not only a coach, he was like a father figure to me. I respected Frank and I respected Frank the most,” he said. “He helped me out a lot not only on the court but off the court, especially with fatherhood, so it’s a big loss, it’s going to take some time to get over.”

But making his first cover appearance on a game that he credits with keeping him “sane” during his recovery while his favourite player, Kobe Bryant, appears on the cover of the video game’s legend’s edition certainly will help.

“It’s very special for that reason alone. I think it would be pretty cool being the cover guy, but having Kobe there makes it even more special,” George said. “It’s really fulfilling.”