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Author Topic: SB Nation - The Dawn of the Paul George era  (Read 23076 times)
Perd Hapley
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« on: November 25, 2013, 11:53:01 am »
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http://www.sbnation.com/2013/11/24/5139514/paul-george-indiana-pacers-nba-sunday-shootaround

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Paul George started laughing before the question was even finished. Like an onrushing double team, he knew exactly what was coming and just as importantly, how to deal with it when it arrived. The question was about becoming a superstar, a label we’re quick to throw around even if we can’t really define what it means.

It’s a question George has heard many times in the last few months. It began late in the 2012-13 season among the basketball heads who had fallen in love with his silky game and the nerds who crunched the numbers. It helped that he looked the part. George plays an aesthetically pleasing game that is at once blindingly athletic and cooly smooth. He glides where others pound, unspooling threes from the top of the arc and throwing down dunks that are more aerial ballet than unrelenting slam dances. Yet outside of the afficionados, George was still something of a cult figure even after making his first All-Star team.

All that changed in the postseason when the Pacers reached the conference finals. The first round was an afterthought and the second round belonged to Roy Hibbert, but it was in that series against Miami and LeBron James that George solidified himself in the public’s mind as an elite player. He made huge plays and at times matched James shot for shot, an effort that was punctuated by a 28-point performance in Game 6 that helped the Pacers stave off elimination.

As the hype machine kicked in, the numbers still showed reason for caution. Despite shooting a decent percentage from behind the arc, George wasn’t an efficient enough scorer yet. He didn’t get to the line enough. He committed too many turnovers thanks to a handle that had improved from shaky to suspect but still wasn’t good enough to allow him to create his own shot at will. A star? Sure. A superstar? Chill.

Then this season began. By any measure -- be it analytical, observational or in the cold calculus of wins and losses -- George’s play has reached that magical superstar level. He’s averaging better than 24 points a game and almost seven rebounds while playing lockdown perimeter defense on a team tied for the best record in the league.

He’s also taken on a larger role in the Pacer offense, becoming the undisputed go-to guy on a team known for its collective approach. His usage rate has jumped and his PER has spiked from 16.8 to 24.5, while his free throw attempts have doubled and his turnovers have gone down.

So, does he hear the talk and does he buy into it?

"Not really. At the end of the day I let my play do all the talking," George said after the Pacers conducted a shootaround in Boston on Friday. "I don’t really have to worry about much. My team is 10-1 right now. I’m trying to play at the highest level I can. Everything else will take care of itself."

Savvy words from a 23-year-old, but George wasn’t so passive this offseason about his place in the game. Over the summer, he worked with trainer Jerry Powell on his ballhandling and for the first time he enlisted the aid of a shooting coach.

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."

Via NBA.com’s shot charts, George is shooting better than 50 percent from the area defined as the mid range, a skill that has become almost quaint in today’s NBA. But George heeded the lessons from former assistant coach Brian Shaw, who shared his wisdom from working with Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles. To be a go-to guy, a player has to have options. He has to use the whole court, and he has to be able to get a shot when his team needs one. This was a new and entirely different mindset for George.

"Last year he came into the season thinking that he was going to be opposite Danny Granger and potentially still a fifth option on offense," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "He was hoping to expand that role but not really understanding that he could be the first option. He grew into that last year toward the end of the year. Then you go into the summer and he went into his summer workout program with that in mind. ‘I’m going to be the number one option and I’m going to take another giant step with my improvement and development,’ and I think that’s shown."
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Kemba2MKG
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« Reply #1 on: November 26, 2013, 03:58:04 am »
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He seems like a down to earth guy, nice article.
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Kobe#1Vince#2
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« Reply #2 on: December 24, 2013, 11:42:27 am »
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Nah, his ego is massive.
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Kemba2MKG
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« Reply #3 on: December 26, 2013, 12:27:02 am »
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I think you have him confused with Lance.
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