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Pacers teammate skeptical Paul George returns this season

Indiana Pacers v New York Knicks

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 7: Donald Sloan #15 and teammate Paul George #13 of the Indiana Pacers warm up before the game against the New York Knicks on March 7, 2015 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

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Larry Bird hinted at it. Paul George was open to it.

And then, suddenly it was on – George planning to return to the Pacers this season.

George returned to practice, but he missed one targeted return date.

Now, he’s uncertain he’ll make it back this season – and so are those around him.

Candace Buckner of IndyStar:

However, even as George has practiced for three weeks, Pacers’ teammates, while highly supportive, see a player who looks good for someone who broke his leg while noting that he is still on the mend. One teammate declared that George is “not even close to 100 percent” while expressing strong skepticism about a return this year

While Vogel never speaks about how George looks on the court, during the brief moments when media has watched the end of practices, George has shown little to justify a return in the near future.

Friday’s media session offered only a minuscule window into George’s activity but the final three minutes didn’t resemble the player last seen in the Eastern Conference finals. During that stretch, he could not get through rookie Shayne Whittington’s screen. Then on a different play, George recovered late trying to pick up Whittington, who was open for a mid-range jumper. George cursed as the shot swished through.

Also, for the several months that he has participated in spot-up 3-point drills, George appears to have developed a hitch in his footwork. On some long attempts, George will shoot and follow through while his right leg instinctively steps forward to brace him, instead of landing and stopping without additional movement as most jump shooters would.

The Pacers have climbed to seventh in the Eastern Conference, and the longer they play, the more likely George is to return. But it seems increasingly unlikely it will happen this season.

Sure, there’s some concern about George disrupting Indiana’s chemistry. I think he’d provide a boost in limited minutes, though. It’s not as if the Pacers would immediately make him a focal point again.

Still, those who’ve seen George the most have major doubts, and that’s pretty telling.