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Paul George to return Sunday

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NBA: Indiana Pacers at Denver Nuggets

Paul George has chosen Easter Sunday to make his long-awaited comeback from a gruesome leg injury.

George announced via Instagram on Saturday morning that he intends to make his season debut in the Pacers’ home game Sunday night against the Heat.

The Pacers subsequently announced that George, coach Frank Vogel and team doctor Tim Hupfer will meet with the media Saturday after practice to expound on the All-Star’s planned return.

“The recovery has been a long process and this is another step in the process,” George said in a statement released by the team. “I thank everyone, my family, friends, doctors, our training staff, coaches, the entire Pacers family for their support and encouragement. I’m excited, but at the same time I’m aware I’m still in a rehab stage and will continue to work to get back to full strength.”

Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird said the team initially will limit George’s playing time.

“We’re happy to have Paul back in uniform, and this is just another step in his rehabilitation from the injury,” Bird said. “He has worked hard to get to this point and still has work to do, but it’s a positive step toward what we hope will be a full recovery at some point. His minutes will be limited in games he plays as we evaluate his progress moving forward.”

George has been sidelined since fracturing his right tibia and fibula in a ghastly fall while playing in a USA Basketball intrasquad scrimmage in Las Vegas on Aug. 1. He returned to the practice floor on Feb. 26 and initially targeted mid-March for his return, but the two-time All-Star has opted to be extra cautious and give himself more time to feel confident in his body.

“I wanted it to be March 14, but that obviously didn’t happen,” George told reporters earlier this week. “We’re just being smart about the situation. When the time’s ready, I’ll be back out there.”

George added Monday that he and the Pacers’ training staff “want to make sure I’m as close to 100 (percent) as possible.”

During a recent seven-game winning streak in March, George publicly wondered if his return this season would disrupt the team’s rhythm. But the Pacers (33-43), who have lost nine of their last 12 games, currently are 10th in the Eastern Conference playoff standings and are 1 1/2 games behind the eighth-place Heat (34-41).

Indiana picked up a much-needed victory Friday over Charlotte but will need a big lift from George to make the playoffs.

George, 24, averaged a career-best 21.7 points per game last season, when he emerged as one of the NBA’s top young stars.

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