Paul George

With 9:33 left in a USA Basketball scrimmage before the 2014 FIBA World Cup, Paul George raced downcourt and elevated to block James Harden's shot. George's lower right leg bent to the side gruesomely -- almost perpendicularly -- as he ran into the basketball stanchion. A bone protruded the skin of his shattered leg.

His tibia-fibula fracture was so unsettling that players like Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward put towels over their mouths -- as if to prevent from retching.

Now, two years later, George is back on the international stage.

Paul George Leg Injured

"This is like redemption," George said. "All the bad that happened that night, and now I have this opportunity again to represent my country. It's special."

It would have been more than understandable -- perhaps even expected -- for George not to participate in the 2016 Olympics rather than further risk his health.

Shortly after George injured himself in the 2014 exhibition, Kevin Durant pulled out of the World Cup, likely worried about suffering a similar injury.

Though he called winning a gold medal a "childhood dream," George admitted that he had thoughts of skipping the 2016 Olympics. But after the Pacers were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Raptors, he had plenty of time to rest his body in preparation for the international grind during the summer.

"Going out early definitely had an impact," George said.

When George suffered the injury in 2014, he remained on the floor but did not yell or scream. He was composed, telling his father, who had left his seat at UNLV's Thomas & Mack Center to attend to him, that he was "all right." Asked two years later to describe what went through his mind at that point, George politely -- and understandably -- declined.

Paul George

But enduring that major injury and going through the subsequent rehab was a process that gave him a connection to two other stars on the 2016 U.S. team.

A broken foot ended Durant's 2014-15 season after just 27 games. During Game 1 of the 2015 NBA Finals, Irving broke his kneecap and did not return until Dec. 20 of the following season.

The three have discussed their injuries and arduous recoveries.

"We're just talking about the things that we did that no one really saw, that really shaped who we were," Irving said. "There's a deeper appreciation for just your life in general."

That outlook helped the 26-year-old George put his injury, which was suffered during a contest that was nothing more than a glorified scrimmage, in perspective.

"It just sucks it was a freak accident, but injuries are part of the game. I can easily get injured during a practice with my team in Indiana," George said. "I put myself in that position, it happened and now it's about how I return."

George returned impressively last season, recording a career-high in points (23.1 per game) and PER (20.9) while also averaging seven rebounds and 4.1 assists.

Paul George And Mike Krzyzewski

He is poised to have an even better 2016-17.

From playing and training with elite teammates, NBA players who have gone through the Olympic experience often use it as a springboard to improve the subsequent season, and USA Basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski has raved about George's conditioning.

"He's playing the best basketball of his life right now," Krzyzewski said. "He's just a very gifted athlete ... He's just a really good guy to coach because you could play him everywhere."

George is so talented and versatile that when Team USA's point guards got in early foul trouble during the exhibition games, Krzyzewski used George as his main guard bringing the ball up to initiate the offense.

But George's best asset to Team USA might be his defensive ability. An NBA All-Defensive first or second teamer in 2013, 2014 and 2016, he can guard all five positions on the international level.

Paul George

"I've taken that approach personally, wanting to guard and be a defensive guy," George said. "The game is going to come easy offensively. Defensively is where if I do my job and shut down their best player, our chances are going to skyrocket."

After his injury two summers ago, doctors told George that it would take three months before he could even bear weight on his right leg.

But George made his season debut a little more than eight months later against the Heat on April 5, 2015, recording 13 points, two rebounds, two assists and two steals in 15 minutes of action.

The final step of George's redemptive process will take place if he leads the U.S. team to the gold medal.

For now just being back on the international stage carries special significance for him.

"It means a lot," George said. "It's a second chance, another opportunity and I'm very grateful to be back and be able to compete."

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Follow Jeff Fedotin on Twitter @JFedotin.