As many of you are aware Paul George suffered a gruesome leg injury in Friday's USA basketball showcase that is being described by the media as a "catastrophic leg fracture". He is expected to miss the entire season despite having successful surgery. The only good news to come out of this unfortunate incident is that he suffered no ancillary damage per Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports.
With the Indiana Pacers star guard likely out the entire season, the ever changing Eastern Conference has shifted yet again.
What this means for the Eastern Conference
Paul George was the only saving grace on a Pacers team that had recently lost Lance Stephenson to the Charlotte Hornets during free agency. Unfortunately, the loss of George is disastrous for the ball club's hopes to reman in title contention.
With that being said, if George misses the entire season the Pacers are at best mediocre. While the Pacers may still end up making the postseason they will be nowhere close to the 56-26 record they put together to gain the Eastern Conference's first seed last season.
It's hard to imagine a team led by Roy Hibbert, David West and Rodney Stuckey trumping any other contender in a seven game series, let alone a regular season game. This effectively knocks them out of any "top three" consideration making way for a new group, of contenders bearing anymore unforeseen circumstances. As it stands right now the top three clubs in the East will most likely be Chicago, Cleveland, and Miami. However, with the East appearing much more competitive, there is always a chance Toronto or Washington make a run to strip away a top three seed.
With the talent evenly spaced among the top five teams, the 1st seed will most certainly be up for grabs and will hopefully transition into phenomenal postseason games.
What this means for the Miami Heat
Indiana's absence from the title contention comes as a surprise for the Heat. Even with LeBron James, the rival Pacers were consistently able to deliver hard fought battles in both 2012 and 2013 and push the Heat to the brink of elimination each time. With another championship in sight, the removal of stiff competition helps create a little bit of breathing room in the East for the postseason.
However, even with the Pacers likely out of the way, the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers will be the toughest competition for this new Heat team. Hopefully, the disappearance of Indiana from title contention instills a newfound confidence within the Heat and allows them to rob the top seed.
As someone who has really enjoyed the Miami-Indiana rivalry over the past few seasons and was anticipating this season's battles, Paul George's injury comes as a huge blow. We at Hot Hot Hoops wish him nothing but the best and a speedy recovery.
No one deserves to suffer such a gruesome injury, and NBA basketball is less fun in his absence.