Paul George reached out to Gordon Hayward: 'Hard to get over that'

OKLAHOMA CITY -- If there's one player who understands what Gordon Hayward is going through, it's Paul George.

The Oklahoma City Thunder star said seeing Hayward's devastating injury Tuesday night made him "nauseous."

"It just brought me back to Vegas and when it happened to me, my incident," George said Wednesday. "Immediately I felt devastated. I was, like, nauseous watching it, just going back to that place. Immediately after it happened, I texted Gordon. We talked last night. I just tried to give him words of encouragement, just tried to be there for him."

During a Team USA intrasquad scrimmage in 2014, George fell awkwardly into the basket stanchion trying to block a fast-break layup, fracturing the tibia and fibula in his right leg. Because of the graphic nature of the injury, the scrimmage was stopped midgame and canceled.

George underwent a two-hour surgery and returned to the floor less than a year later, in April 2015, appearing in six games at the end of the season.

The recovery, George said, was mentally and physically grueling.

"It's both. It's both," George said. "Gordon has never dealt with something as bad as that, especially Game 1 of the season. It's just unfortunate. It's a little bit of everything. It's physical, it's mentally, I'm sure, emotional. He's in a different state of mind. It's just bad timing for that. Honestly, it's hard to get over that. For me, it was just hard to see that."

Following George's injury, it wasn't certain he would ever return to form. But he very much did, playing 81 games in 2015-16, averaging a then-career-high 23.1 points before upping that to 23.7 points in 75 games last season.

But despite overcoming the adversity, George always carries the injury with him.

"I mean, you always think about it. I have a bump on my leg for the rest of my life. I always think about it. It's always there," he said. "And then just being on the court, I'm not as explosive, I'm not as bouncy as I was. It's something I got to live with now. Thankfully I was able to gain mentally and learn the game a different way spending my time off. But it's always going to be a part of his story."

Still, despite admitting to maybe losing some athleticism and explosiveness, George said, "I think I'm better than what I was."

Much like Hayward, George received overwhelming support not only from around the NBA but all of professional sports, something he said was extremely helpful on his road back to the floor.

"I think we do a great job as players to kind of pick one another up," he said. "At the end of the day, man, this is a brotherhood, and we genuinely care for everybody's health. Health is most important. I've been there. I know what that outreach did for me, so I wanted to be there for Gordon in his time of need and help pick him up. Hopefully I can be one of the best influences, going through that."