Paul George sits out final two exhibition games as Team USA readies for Rio

No need to force it if you don’t have to. And playing alongside such great talent, like Paul George is, there was no reason to force it … especially in exhibition games.

That’s why Paul George, a member of the 12-man USA Basketball Olympic Team, sat out the final two tune-up contests due to a strained left calf. George suffered the injury in the first half of an exhibition game in Oakland one week ago.

George is fulfilling a childhood dream in playing for a gold medal.

George is fulfilling a childhood dream in playing for a gold medal.

“The calf is good,” George told last week in Chicago. When further pressed if he had any concern about the injury — which he has dealt with previously, including throughout April and May of last year — George smiled and said “Naw.”

“We was just being cautious. It’s just a little tightness. These are exhibition games. I want to be ready for Rio so it’s a day-to-day thing. We’re just going to manage it. Nothing too serious.

“Again, the goal is to get me ready and be ready for Rio.”

The team isn’t concerned, either, but they decided to take an ultra-conservative approach through exhibition play.

Head coach Mike Krzyzewski: “He’s going to be fine. We’re lucky to have him.”

[George among 12 named to 2016 USA Olympic Team]

Exactly two years ago at this time, a room at Sunrise Hospital in Las Vegas was being prepped for George after he suffered a compound fracture to his right leg. Dr. David Silverberg repaired George’s tibia and fibula, and a titanium rod, measuring 420mm long (16.5 inches) and 14mm in diameter, was inserted. That rod remains there today.

“It means a lot, really, to be back to this point,” he said. “It’s a second chance, it’s another opportunity right here. Very grateful, very grateful to be back competing for my country again.”

[Why Jeep tapped Paul George to be the face of their summer campaign]

With the Pacers’ 2015-16 season ending in a Game 7 loss to Toronto, George had additional time to recover from his first full season back from the injury and make a thoughtful decision about whether to play in Rio or not. Initially, he seriously considered having a quiet, low-key summer instead. Doctors told him his second full year back, which will begin in late October, will be his first at full strength.

Yet the 26-year-old is coming off his best season as a pro. George knows there’s risks in whatever he does, whether it be practice at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, playing in a Pro Am, or with some of the NBA’s best in the Olympics.

“There’s always a risk,” George said in June when discussing his decision to play in the Olympics. “There’s a risk putting my shoes on stepping on the court. There’s always a risk. I don’t play the game looking at injuries, I play the game because I love it.

“I won’t let that [his previous injury] stop me from a childhood dream. I always wanted to play (in) the Olympics. I definitely won’t let that stop me.”

Team USA has won its last 17 games in Olympic play and 67 consecutive FIBA, FIBA Americas and exhibition games. They begin pool play on Aug. 6 against China at 6:00 p.m. ET.

[Paul George on being an Olympian: ‘This is a dream of mine’]

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