George past ‘LeBron mentoring’ stage

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com


VIDEO: Paul George leads the Pacers to victory in Game 1

INDIANAPOLIS – Certain words — such as “happy,” “complacent” and “a lack of urgency” — still get uttered inside the Indiana locker room, way past the point at which the PC police should have banished them.

That would be Pacer Correctness, by the way, which should have excised such musings from the players’ vocabularies a year or two ago.

When a team commits itself to the arduous, round-by-round ascent to an NBA championship the way Indiana has – first round in 2011, second round in 2012 and so on – it ought to be clear by now that there is no happy, there is no complacent, until they’re passing around the Larry O’Brien trophy, tugging on commemorative snapbacks and squabbling over the parade route.

That the Pacers, over and over, have let themselves relax and savor mere scraps of partial success speaks to their maturity, their resolve and whether they have the belly for the fight they’ve entered.

It speaks to the career arc of Paul George and his team’s dire need for him to be and play fully grown-up. Right now.

George has been terrific so far — 22.1 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 4.0 apg, 42.4 3FG% in 14 playoff games — but getting where Indiana wants to go only happens when a team’s best player accepts the grim task and heavy responsibility of stepping up night in, night out. George took another step in the right direction in his team’s Game 1 victory, scoring 24 points to lead the balanced offense while picking his spots to give the Pacers what they needed, when they needed it.

In the first half, George took only four shots and made two, but he passed for six of his 2014 playoff-high seven assists as the Pacers found openings in the Heat’s normally stifling defense. In the second half, George outscored everyone with 18 points, asserting himself most obviously on the heels of buckets by Dwyane Wade or LeBron James.

And since he was matched up so often on James, when George did so, you could almost see his chest swell, his shoulders square, as he realized he could give back as well as or better than he took from the Miami star.

Remember the clamor George caused back in March when he said he hoped James could mentor him (“I wish some day we have that relationship where he is someone I can talk to”)? It seemed weenie, too deferential, for a guy and a team that want everything James and the Heat have. If Indiana is going to grab at that over the next few weeks, James may inadvertently help him raise his game to the next level but it’s going to have to come from within, not from a benevolent rival in an awkward big bro’/little bro’ relationship.

George has been compared often in his young career to Scottie Pippen, sharing with the Chicago Bulls’ Hall of Famer his length, his placid demeanor, his defensive inclinations and his versatility. But what Indiana needs from George now is less Pippen and more Michael Jordan.

Less George in Game 6 against Washington, settling in as a defender vs. Bradley Beal while scoring 12 points, and more George from Game 4, when he dragged Indiana to victory with 39 points, 12 rebounds and 7-of-10 shooting.

Listen to this comment from George after Sunday’s victory over Miami and the “killer instinct” that’s been so elusive for Indiana: “That will be the test. We’ve been complacent many times in series, and throughout the whole year. We just can’t get complacent.”

Now try to imagine Jordan or James or Kobe Bryant or a half dozen of the league’s other cutthroat competitors saying that. Inconceivable, isn’t it? They’d glare at whoever asked the question and grind their molars.

That’s the level to which George has to take his game and his attitude over what’s left of this series (and beyond, if there is any beyond). It’s his call. If you want to beat someone in the spring, you can’t think about getting mentored by the guy in the summer.

26 Comments

  1. dmh says:

    This is the playoffs. Maybe before now George talked about it. However all bets are off until summer due to the playoffs. Do you really think that Kevin Durant talks about Lebron that way during the playoffs? I doubt it. During the games the mindset is kill kill kill.

    George is still a baby in NBA years having just signed his first max contract. Barring injury or other unforseen circumstances, there is the potential for Paul George to be better at 28 or 29 than Lebron is now. There will be other parts to his game that will be different than Lebron’s just like Durant having taken that Dirk Nowitski kickout jumper. That is ok. For now enjoy the rivalry and see if traditional basketball (Indy) or fast spacing with an older roster (Miami) wins out.

  2. ROMULO CATOR says:

    Paul George ‘s winning game 1 is not an indication that his basketball IQ ihas now gone higher. Maybe. He still ha a lot
    more to learn. Maybe not from Lebron, but through the years. Like I said George and Hibbert do not perform in consistent
    fashion. And Game 2 will be more difficult to get, simply because Le Lebron and the Heat do not want to lose twice in a
    row.

  3. qqq says:

    if Miami make shots like they use to, they are gonna win this series, Miami actually got pretty good looks on most possesions in game 1. Their defense was bad, but I actually think that miami could have won game 1 despite their bad performance on the defensive end, if they made 3s like they use to do.

  4. Jsadrian says:

    PG don’t need no killer instinct… He is Scottie Pippen on this team… The MJ here is David West.

  5. lakerslakerslakers says:

    heat in 6. can’t see bosh playing garbage for 4 straight games. and lebron will always bring his game.

  6. squala96 says:

    There’s no doubt about George’s ability, but his consistency still isn’t within LeBron and Durant levels. He makes it big in one game but slumps in another. Thankfully though, he has teammates who can genuinely help. All five starters had important roles in Game 1 and carried them out nicely. That’s something that can’t be credited in the Heat.

  7. jay says:

    just wait, series are not finished

  8. HaasofHouseofHaas says:

    I think Paul George needs to keep doing what he did in last game. Make smart decisions, and do what’s best for the team. That’s what he did, and he got 24 points quite easily. He’s going to have a hot game where he will score 30 or more I’m sure, but the Pacers really need to keep up the great ball movement in game 1.

  9. Erlo says:

    What bothers me about this series is that Roy Hibbert consistently gets away with mugging people, and then gets fouled every time when he shoots. Either call it the same both ways or start calling fouls when you hit people who are taking shots in the post, even if your name is Roy Hibbert..

  10. TROYBOY says:

    The Pacers have shown that they can win with Paul George not having a good offensive game. People are so used to seeing teams winning with their superstar carrying most of the load. This series is about coaching. Every players knows how the other players play. It will be about Xs and Os. And that relies heavily on coaches with their rotations, timeouts, and what they say during those timeouts. Yesterday’s game showed that for the Pacers when Frank Vogel would not let Miami go on a run.

    Indiana went through adversity in the last three years. And that is an understatement considering how they finished this season and started their playoff run. And the best thing going for them this year is being able to come thru every time. Who said there is a right path to winning a championship? The only right way is what’s working.

    There’s a first time for everything. And the Pacers run this year is one of a kind.

  11. Deon Greer says:

    Pacers in 6…..they never loose back to back…..and its not all about PG..David West can knockem down all night…Stephenson will put on a clinic with Wade and his bum knee….eventually Lebron will score all the points in 4th quarter and still lose….also Pacers have been a Solid squad on the road….Pacers in 6

  12. psamcool says:

    I would call this article – Severe hallucination due to a perfect Game 1 for Indiana”. Paul George is not even close to what Lebron and Durant can do.

    • Anthony says:

      Man I couldn’t agree more. What else can we expect from the media? Everything is an overreaction. The Home team won game 1. The Pacers played their absolute best and the heat didn’t and Miami still could have snuck in and won.

  13. Bball fan says:

    I feel like Indiana was putting too much pressure on themselves towards the end of the season and the first two rounds of the playoffs and maybe even at times throughout this stretch just looking forward to meeting Miami in the Conference Finals.
    Now that they’re here…I hope they maintain the level of play seen in the first game throughout the series and make it more memorable than last year.

  14. ROMULO CATOR says:

    Being proud is good. But too much pride destroys too. Humility in victory is better and just. That is how Lebron in
    victory, HUMBLE. Remember George, do not be too much proud because you won game 1. Game 2 is harder to get.
    And see how Lebron gets it with all humility.

    • Tazman says:

      Heat fans and members are FAR from humble…really?? Guess your advice is automatically rejected due to your misconception of what Humble means.

  15. taekayo says:

    Truth is, if IND wins game 2, this is still a series. IND fought hard for homecourt advantage, but MIA are still champs. They have the best player (and flop artist) in LBJ. Its not over until you beat LBJ’s team 4x.

    As for George, he’s still young, and he’ll get better. But I’d rather NOT wait for him to dominate because LBJ, KD, CP3 etc. are getting older and he’s just reaching his prime. I’d want to challenge EVERYONE who is at the top of their game. That’s what MJ has… he was with the Magic’s, Bird’s, Thomas’ etc… and he wants to challenge them. He may have not beaten them outright… but its always about “I’m not gonna wait ’til you are old so I can smack you up” (much like LBJ giving the look to MJ in the WAS-MIA series… weeeeeeeener). For these competitors, CHALLENGE IS RESPECT. You don’t wait until the other is weaker, you want to beat them at the top of their game.

    George might need all the help he has (esp from West), but he needs to bring the fight right now. To be the best, you must beat the best… at the top of their game.

    • alfa says:

      MJ never beat anyone in their prime coming up. Larry’s back was out of whack and Magic was also past his prime. Maybe the Pistons, but I think they got the better of MJ instead of the other way around. Not doubting his greatness, but he never took any real hardware until the 90′s when the greats he was compared to had declined or retired.

      • James says:

        Funny observation..MJ caught Shaq, Olajuwon, Drexler, Barkley, Ewing, Malone, Stockton, Payton, David Robinson and Reggie Miller (all future HOFs) in their Prime and none of them won a championship while MJ was playing.

        He even caught Kobe, Iverson, T-mac, Vince carter, Steve Nash, Nowitzki, Duncan and other uprising stars who eventually dominated the 90s and 2000s after he left, and again.. NONE of them won any rings while he was playing.

        And yet you still question the man’s dominance when he was playing.

        Plain and simple, the guy’s never lost a Single Finals series. He is at a different level. Only Bill Russell and Wilt chamberlain is close to this guy’s level in basketball history man.

        Forget Lebron and Kobe.. Both only have 2 rings as the main man. (Shaq owns the 1st 3 of Kobe, he is only the “Pippen” that time).

  16. Mathias says:

    Maybe we can see some physical match ups on the court and then realize that after all they are contenders and not just friends. The way sometimes it is published the sportsmanship desired from players seems not realistic. Paul George must be “alpha” on the court. But being “alpha” in front of the top “alpha” of the league is a very different thing. Good luck, PG! You will need it now more than never.

  17. vern says:

    Gotta say I’m impressed with how Indiana came out to play. If game 2 is anything like game 1, win or lose I think they have a good shot coming out of the east.

  18. Max says:

    LeBron has not played well since the 49 pts. against the Nets. Is he Sick? He seems to play better without Wade? Bosh play good without Wade. Last two games, well James has been liking? Is there something that all do not know “except the Heat”? Cannot beat Pacers without the completeness of LeBron James. He has to get to the NET, then those tall lanky Pacers will foul, then LB HAS to MAKE BOTH FREE THROWS! NOT WASTE THE FIRST ONE, by just throwing it up with out focus. GO Heat!

  19. Michael.W says:

    “If you want to beat someone in the spring, you can’t think about getting mentored by the guy in the summer.” Yeah, he can , he did, and now, after a huge performance in game one’s win, he’s one game closer to playing for his own NBA championship ring. There is nothing wrong with giving respect and acknowledging those who have accomplished the same dreams that you are pursuing. After all, if PG accomplishes that dream, it will be through the same hard work, determination, and perseverance that ultimately Lebron overcame. PG stated that he hopes to one day be able to have conversations with Lebron as in to imply that he himself understands that he has not graduated to that level. When did modesty become something so terrible?

    • mee(a)t says:

      People are stupid, that’s why.

      • MWarnock says:

        Yeah unfortunately they continue to make that choice every day of their miserable existence.

    • NBAfan says:

      Be modest and look for mentoring AFTER…

      COMPETE ‘TIL YOU DROP RIGHT NOW….

      nothing wrong with modesty…but it’s not the right time for that if you want to dethrone the Heat.

      This isn’t politics, this is sports. This is basketball.