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George has successful surgery after horrific injury

(Reuters) - Indiana Pacers All-Star forward Paul George is recovering in a Las Vegas hospital following successful surgery on a horrific leg injury in a USA Basketball game, the National Basketball Association team said on Saturday.

"Our initial discussions with our doctors and the doctors in Las Vegas have us very optimistic," Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird said in a statement.

"We are hopeful at some point next week Paul will return to Indianapolis to continue his recovery."

George, the Pacers' key player, suffered an open fracture of the tibia and fibula bones in his lower right leg, USA Basketball said, when he contested a layup attempt by Houston Rockets' James Harden in a practice game on Friday in Las Vegas.

The game was canceled and George had surgery later that night.

"I'll be ok and be back better than ever!!!" George said on Twitter.

U.S. media speculated that because of the seriousness of the injury it could be months before George is back on his feet and that his 2014-15 season could be in jeopardy.

Bird declined to comment on a timeframe for George's return to the court.

“Our first thoughts are with Paul and his family," said NBA great Bird. "It is way too early to speculate on his return as the No. 1 priority for everyone will be his recovery."

WIDESPREAD SUPPORT

The injury, which occurred when the 24-year-old George collided against bottom of the basketball stanchion, brought an outpouring of support from fellow NBA players and league officials.

"Made me immediately sick to my stomach!!" Cleveland Cavaliers' new acquisition LeBron James, who was not at the game, tweeted after learning of the injury. "Praying for u a speedy recovery homie!!!

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said: "It was difficult to watch the injury that Paul George sustained tonight while representing his country. The thoughts and prayers of all of us at the NBA are with Paul and his family."

Despite the impact the injury might have on the Pacers, one of the top teams in the NBA's Eastern Conference, Bird said the franchise would continue to back USA Basketball.

”We still support USA Basketball and believe in the NBA's goals of exposing our game, our teams and players worldwide," said the standout on the original NBA "Dream Team" that won the 1992 Olympic gold medal.

"This is an extremely unfortunate injury that occurred on a highly-visible stage, but could also have occurred anytime, anywhere."

USA Basketball was using the Las Vegas training camp and the game to help select a team to defend their 2010 world title at the World Cup in Spain beginning on Aug. 30.

They are aiming to become the third team after Brazil (1959 and 1963) and Yugoslavia (1998 and 2002) to win back-to-back world titles.

(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Wilson, North Carolina; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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