INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana Pacers forward Paul George felt like his leg was on fire.

"I felt like gasoline was on my leg and somebody lit a match," the NBA All-Star said Friday during a press conference at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

George was appearing publicly for the first time after his injury Aug. 1 at the USA Basketball Showcase while playing in a scrimmage for the U.S. men's national team.

"It was just on fire," he said. "It just felt like a burning sensation."

When George fell hard into a basket support at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, fracturing his right leg, the incident had far-reaching consequences. The severity of the injury and a long rehabilitation process will likely cost him the entire 2014-15 NBA season.

The exhibition game was halted after George's injury and sparked a national debate whether NBA stars, making millions of dollars, should play for the national team and risk injury.

"They don't deserve any criticism for this," George said of USA Basketball. "I would love to be a part of USA Basketball in 2016."

Since George's injury, Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder left the team but said it was because of fatique and not anything to do with George's accident.

George underwent surgery the day after the accident and returned to Indianapolis on Aug. 5. On Friday, a large crowd of Pacers fans holding "We love you" signs greeted George at the parking entrance to the arena.

The big question is: When will George be back? Will he miss the entire 2014-15 NBA season? There is no definitive timeline and George said he does not want to rush back, risking further injury. But he does hold hope of possibly returning late in the season.

"I would love to come back and play this year. I'm a competitor," George said. "I understand there's a possibility I won't be back this year. I'm very aware of that. But if I have the opportunity to make a comeback, I'm looking forward to it."

George has heard from and been visited by large numbers of players, including newly signed Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James, and Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat.

Pacers center Roy Hibbert and Pacers guard George Hill were among the first to visit George in Indianapolis. Pacers teammate C.J. Watson visited him in the hospital before his surgery.

Members of the USA Basketball national team will wear patches honoring George on their practice shooting jerseys. FIBA, the international basketball federation, does not permit patches on game jerseys otherwise USA Basketball would have created a special uniform for the FIBA World Cup, which begins Aug. 30.

George made one thing clear about the national team Friday. He fully intends to compete for a spot for the 2016 U.S. Olympic team in Rio de Janeiro.

"Absolutely. It's in Brazil," George said. "I look forward to a comeback. I look forward to have an opportunity again to participate in Team USA in 2016. This injury has nothing to do with my take on playing for my country at all."

The national team will play Brazil in an exhibition game Saturday night at United Center in Chicago, but George said he wil watch on TV instead of going to the game.

Memories of the injury are still with the national team, as well as with George. He said the worst injury he had previously suffered was a swollen ankle. When he went down in Vegas, George said he knew immediately how bad it was.

"I was in shock. I couldn't believe that it was me this was happening to," he said. "When I looked down and saw my bone sticking out, I knew it was bad. I've felt pain before. This was a pain I haven't felt before."

In addition to questions about NBA stars playing for the national team, criticism about the basket support stanchions at the Thomas & Mack Center surfaced. George disagrees with such criticism.

"It was a freak accident. It was just a freak accident," George said. "No one's really been injured the whole time ... since USA Basketball has been here. They've never seen someone take a huge injury. I think it just happened. Freak accidents happen."

Larry Bird, Pacers president and a star for the original Olympic dream team while he played for the Boston Celtics, is still a believer in the national team program.

"Personally, I think that it is good for these young men," Bird said in a press conference earlier this week at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. "They're a brand now. And they get an opportunity to showcase their talents all over the world."

George, who had a rod and several pins surgically implanted in his leg, says he may start light rehabilitation next week. He is walking with the help of crutches.

"This is something I think I can overcome," he said. "It's a bump in the road."