Everybody Loves Paul George
If the season ended tomorrow, Paul George would probably win the 2013-14 MVP award. He has been that good, and as is becoming increasingly evident, everybody in the media is madly in love with him. Exhibit A is his cover story in this month’s SLAM magazine. That feature has yet to hit newsstands, but Tzvi Twersky offered this quote from the subject in a teaser piece recently published on SLAM Online.
“This is definitely where I want to be, but it’s not where I want to end at,” says George … “I want to be MVP. I want to be Defensive Player of the Year. I want to be First-Team All-NBA. I want to be a Gold medalist. I want to be a hall of famer. I want to be a Champion. Everything that’s the highest or the greatest that you can do, I want to do that.”
SB Nation’s Paul Flannery is another writer who took a stab at capturing George’s rise to stardom in this early season. His piece, which in this excerpt focuses on Paul’s offseason midrange shooting regimen, didn’t disappoint.
In a nondescript gym of a community college in Los Angeles, George toiled under Mike Penberthy’s watchful eye, getting up 500 shots a day at game speed. Penberthy went to work on his mechanics, insisting that every shot — no matter where it comes from on the floor — be taken with the same stroke. George’s goal was to improve his mid-range game, which would allow him to become the kind of player his team could rely on in the closing minutes of games. He’s added a nasty pull-up jumper that is unblockable and has become his go-to move off isolations on the wing. That was the missing piece. “Last year I was just unsure of that role as opposed to this year where I feel like, ‘That is my role,” George said. “I think it was just maturity. Going through having to learn how to deal with pressure situations, now I’m expecting pressure situations. Learning how to perform when your teams needs you the most. That’s what I gained the most out of the playoffs.”
As mentioned earlier today, Zach Lowe did a great job breaking down how George has improved his handle and overall ability to become a potent, nuanced scorer in this league — particularly as the ballhandler in the pick and roll.
Perhaps the biggest difference is in George’s ability to actually use the screens his big men set for him. George’s timing just wasn’t there last season. He’d take off too soon, or too late, allowing his defender to sneak around the screen untouched. This season, George and his big men are working in perfect sync. George’s defenders are ending up smushed into the chest of Roy Hibbert or David West much more often, giving George more space and a clean head start. “It’s just me improving my IQ on the pick-and-roll,” George says. “It’s learning to time things right with the bigs.” The improved timing has allowed the Pacers to introduce some Spursian fanciness into their pick-and-roll game. George and his screeners are toying with defenses more often this season by disguising the direction of their picks until the very last second.
And lastly, here’s ESPN NY’s Ian O’Connor, after Indiana’s overtime win in New York, writing definitively about at least one other superstar forward who George has surpassed.
Paul George, age 23, has become a better player than Anthony, age 29, and that’s a problem. A big problem. It’s one thing forLeBron James to be the superior Eastern Conference talent, quite another for George to have hurdled Melo in the power rankings, too. “He’s got a lot better, especially offensively,” Anthony said after George finished with 35 points and outscored the Knicks in overtime 9-7 in the Pacers’ 103-96 victory. “All it takes is confidence in this league. I think with George, that’s what he has right now, and it’s growing day by day, game by game, and you can see that when he’s out on the court.”
There is a lot of season left, and George is going to have to keep up his top-notch play to keep earning all this acclaim. But for now, there may be no other player in the NBA who is earning as many laudatory column inches as the Pacers’ newest superstar.