George Ready To Lead Pacers Further



.

LAS VEGAS – The apprenticeship ended earlier than expected for Paul George. It ended earlier than anyone expected, facilitated no doubt by his breakout 2012-13 season and the Indiana Pacers’ spirited run to the Eastern Conference finals.

The end of that process, however, gave way to another even more unexpected transition for George the past two months. He went from a promising young NBA talent, an All-Star even, to a player atop almost everyone’s hot list of the next wave of superstars the league has to offer.

Fans in his native Southern California have already tagged him as the current star capable of soothing the burn for Los Angeles Lakers’ faithful still suffering from the shock of Dwight Howard bolting for Houston. That pipe dream was one George all but dismissed publicly after his first workout during the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team mini-camp this week on the campus of UNLV.

“It’s certainly more notoriety,” George said of the wicked increase in attention he has received since going to toe-to-toe with and holding his own against Miami’s LeBron James on Eastern Conference finals stage. “It’s not the same. Everywhere I go it’s just not the same. But it’s something I wanted. I wanted to be a franchise guy, a household name guy in this league. It’s like they say, it comes with the territory. And it’ll only make me better in the future for going through this.”

George is entering the final season of his rookie deal as arguably the best bargain in basketball: he’ll make $3.2 million this season, but he is eligible for a long-term extension. The Pacers have until Oct. 31 to get a deal done. And that shouldn’t be a problem, not with Pacers’ president Larry Bird already making it clear to Pacers fans that a “major” offer for George is on the way.

(Bird said his first order of business upon coming out of retirement to take over running the show he built in Indiana was to make sure then-free agent David West was taken care of, and he did that, so he should be taken at his word.)

George insists that he’s not worried about anything and that his camp and the Pacers’ front office are “on the same page and we’ll get the job done.”

The headline on that page has to be about George coming of age and moving into the role of ringleader for a Pacers team that is poised to challenge the Heat — and anyone else in the Eastern Conference — for the right to play in The Finals. What looks like a challenge from a distance (avoiding a tug of war between Gorge and returning Pacers swingman Danny Granger) is a non-issue to George, whose ability to manage the mental and emotional aspects of the game rank right up there with his devastating blend of skill and elite athleticism.

“It’s easy, with our team we don’t have ego guys,” George said. “It’s all about getting the job done. It doesn’t matter if it’s me, Danny, David or the big fella (Roy Hibbert). It’s all about who has the hot hand anyway. I think you could see that in the way we’ve played the past two years. I’m a free player and I’m open to sacrificing. Everybody on our team is sacrificing in one way or another. I think our chemistry will be great with Danny in the lineup.”

In each of those past two seasons, the first with Granger and last season without him, the Pacers took the incremental steps needed to build towards making that Finals leap. Pacers coach Frank Vogel talked about it after that Game 7 loss to the Heat and George said it has come up during nearly every conversation he’s had with any and all of his teammates since then. The time for this team to strike is now.

The Heat will be attempting to complete the arduous task of making it to The Finals for a fourth straight year, something only the Celtics (a mind-boggling 10 straight trips during the Bill Russell/Bob Cousy¬†era from 1956-57 to 1965-66 and again by the Bird-led crew from 1983-84 to 1986-87) and Lakers (Magic Johnson‘s Showtime Lakers from 1981-82 to 1984-85) have done.

George knows the history of the game. He knows that if the Heat are going to be vulnerable, and that’s a legitimate “if,” it’s going to be next season.

“Who knows? This could be the last opportunity we have a team well put together like this,” George said. “Nothing is ever guaranteed in this league. Everybody has to sacrifice coming into training camp and really put their minds to it. We have a great opportunity. And I think now it’s about finding a way to get over that hump and making The Finals. And as we all saw [with the Heat and the Spurs], when you get there anything can happen. But I think this is our year … I really think it has to be our year.”

For George individually, he’s ready to enter that ring with the best of the NBA’s best. He earned his respect with his actions and not his words last season. And now he’s ready for more.

“That’s definitely the next step. And LeBron and those guys are obviously are obviously getting a little older, so …” George said and then laughed. “It’s a part of the league, the young guys coming in, and obviously I’m the young guy. Just being a part of this class, with all of these talented young guys here, yeah, it is about trying to make a mark and establish yourself as one of the up and coming young stars in this league. I don’t think there is a guy in this gym right now who doesn’t think he’s ready for that.”

There’s only one, though, who has resume to back it up.

12 Comments

  1. dru trips says:

    1. Our bench improved, once again, kudos to Larry and the staff.
    2. It’s scary how much George improved in one year. If this continues, watch out.
    3. He’s not a superstar yet and the only one that can stop him from being one is himself.
    4. OT, Did you hear about larry coming into practice and draining something like 15 3’s in a row?
    5. Please do not forget about Born Ready.
    6. Once again, please do not forget about Lance.
    7. You did forget, so let me remind you, don’t forget about Danny Granger, whom is coming back.
    8. Mix it w/ an improved Hibbert & Hill, We got next miami.
    9. GO PACERS and watch out for the Nets & Bulls.
    10. Let’s win the championship baby, 2013-2014 NBA CHAMPS, LET’S GO PACERS!!!

    • Christopher says:

      Not so fast my friend you are forgetting about the West and they are coming for the East this year but I give the slight edge to the East but they better be careful and don’t go to sleep like the spurs said so many people say they cheated okay but you never ever let the game get close enough so the refs can chose who wins or loses

  2. Roy says:

    It’s funny, all these teams are getting better but none of them are as good as Miami lol. They immediately put themselves on top when they signed LeBron, and until he isn’t putting on that Miami uniform no team will be able to be as good as them.

  3. KOBERONDODURANTWESTBROOKLINDIRK says:

    OKC and those guys are obviously are obviously going to make it to the western conference finals

  4. Rell says:

    Man LeBron and the heat gone win it long as he there. pacers want beat them in 7 games.

    • Mike says:

      The Heat should savor this championchip because they will not be there next year. One thing that was shown this year thru the playoffs and the finals was the weekness’ of The Heat. King James is the greatest basketball player on the planet but just like in Clevland he can’t do it all. I feel that The Nets or The Pacers will prevail in the East in seven games. And even if the Heat manage to win in the East LA Clipers, OKC or THe Spurs will claim the title in 7.

  5. skills franklin says:

    After we ( The Miami Heat ) sign Greg oden you can forgetttt it.. don’t get blind to the fact that every team has got way better in their own way it doesn’t matter lebron James aka the KING will get his can you say ummm third ring# Ain’t got no worries # We ain’t worried bout nun

    • lol says:

      you should your team is getting is slowly becoming the cavs where lebron had to do everthing

      • Dwayne says:

        You, my friend, are not all there. Miami is over, finished news. Once Lebron loses this year, the saga is done

    • Kev says:

      The Heat had to amnesty Mike Miller and Greg Oden wants your entire mini-mid level exception. That would be a disaster… Even if Greg’s knees were fine, it’s hard to plop a guy back into the league after he’s been away for 6 years. Meanwhile, the Pacers added Chris Copeland, CJ Watson, Solomon Hill, and Danny got healthy. They are going to be far superior from last year and their bench, which was horrible last year, will be one of the best in the league. The heat got worse if anything

  6. PacerNation2014 says:

    He is correct in saying the time to strike is now. You never really know what’s going to happen, anything can happen, and there is NO certainty that the current starters will remain forever. I do however think the PACERS have at least a 3 year window. Hill, George, West and Hibbert, but that fifth spot is unknown. Will it remain Danny G or Lance S. Either way with the Pacers being soo small market, I have watched windows of opportunity slip away during the Miller ERA and I HOPE the Pacers can finally make it over that hump and get their first NBA title!