CHARLOTTE (Rio 2016 Olympics/FIBA AmeriCup 2017) - Paul George experienced emotional lows and highs with the USA national team the past several years, when he went from select team player to Olympic champion.
After returning to the court in the latter stages of the 2014-15 season, George had another strong campaign and made the US roster for the Rio de Janeiro Games. He played an important role for the Americans as they went unbeaten and captured the gold medal.
Now that the dust has settled and George has started a new NBA season, he has much to savor. George spoke to FIBA.com.
FIBA: How do you evaluate the Rio experience?
George: It meant everything to get a chance to play alongside some of the greatest talent in our league and then to do it for your country at international level, worldwide level, it was an unbelievable experience. It's not everyday that you get to team up with Carmelo (Anthony), Kyrie (Irving) and KD (Kevin Durant) and I think with everything that is going on in our world, in our country with police and civilians, I was honored to go over there and represent our country in a positive way.
FIBA: What about playing for USA coach Mike Krzyzewski?
George: It had a lot of special and uniqueness to it, like this being his last one. For me, I had a personal connection with him. He was by my side throughout the entire recovery, rehab process. So to finish it out with his last one was special.
FIBA: What did he do in terms of staying in contact with you when you had the broken leg?
George: He kept in touch with me, almost on a monthly basis, to see how rehab was going, how I was going. I wanted to see how he was doing. He was very positive, in my corner. He made the process a lot easier. I think one of the special things, one of the greatest things about him, he would tell me just around this time, I guess it was August, he would say, 'Just envision yourself holding that gold medal up.' It was things like that helped me see light at the end of the tunnel.
FIBA: So you were never alone in that process when you weren't playing?
George: I was always a part of the program, always within the team. I was a part of the culture. He always kept me a part of that.
FIBA: To make the comeback and go to Brazil, did that live up to your expectations?
George: Rio was a beautiful experience. It was just an amazing trip. One of the best things about it was to be a part of it with all of the other athletes.
FIBA: The Opening Ceremony always seems to set a good tone for the Olympics and you were there.
George: It was surreal. The stadium was packed full of fans and you are gracing the floor with some pretty amazing athletes.
FIBA: Paul, the moment when you were backpedaling in the China game and fell, that led to some good natured ribbing about the Chinese guard having 'broken Paul George's ankles' in the social media and you took it very well. The ankles are good now?
George: It's fine. It's a terrible question. Things happen in basketball.