MILWAUKEE – For all his immense talent, the forming of Paul George’s mindset was outlined in high school and college, back when the tireless work wasn’t matched with accolades and attention. Out of California, he wasn’t a McDonald’s All-American, nor even a candidate, and he was never a top recruit for colleges.
Even George’s rise in the 2010 NBA Draft had come to surprise many around the league. For weeks leading up to the draft, all he heard was that his fate would be regulated to going late in the first round, and yet he jumped to the 10th pick. Nevertheless, George still has those memories of being overlooked.
This is what keeps him persistent now, leaving him in the gym for extra workouts when so many young players tend to get complacent with success.
“Nothing ever was given to me,” George told RealGM. “I always have to work for everything so that’s really the mindset and the way I carry myself. Nothing’s given – you have got to go out and take it.”
From scoring to rebounding, passing to leadership, George has made terrific strides in each of his three seasons. Every offseason, he has added new aspects to his game. Frank Vogel could always put him on the opponent’s best player, but last season, George expanded his range. And he has continued to improve his jump shot and his playmaking this year, shooting a career-high 39.7 percent from three-point range on over five attempts per game and averaging almost four assists.
George has a desire for greatness, an understanding of how critical he is to the Indiana Pacers’ success. Slowly, he’s growing into a remarkable all-around player. George became the first member of the Pacers in five seasons to be awarded Player of the Week, and he has had an excellent December with averages of 20.1 points, 7.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists.
On Tuesday evening here, George missed a three-pointer that would have tied his Pacers with the Bucks at 96 all. He had a good look, a shot he knows he has to knock down, but as he would say late Tuesday night at his locker after the 98-93 loss: “That’s a shot I’ll live with every day.”
After learning Danny Granger would be out to start the season, George didn’t have to be consoled by anyone to understand the Pacers needed him to elevate his production, and fast. Indiana’s veterans – Danny Granger and David West, Roy Hibbert and George Hill – have always been receptive to George, offering guidance whenever he wants it, but they were assured that he didn’t need them here.
“It’s within me,” George said. “Just from within, I knew I had to step up, knew it was an opportunity for me to come out and show my true talents. I put a lot of work in. So I would’ve been upset with myself if I continued to play the same way I played last year.”
For George, the way he defended and battled Derrick Rose in the 2011 postseason opened his eyes, flourished his confidence and showed him that he could compete with one of the NBA’s best – never mind doing so then as a 20-year-old rookie. George loves playing defense, combining height and speed with those long arms. Ask him where he ranks among the top wing defenders in the league, and there’s no wavering.
“I’m up there with the top defenders in the league,” George said. “I feel like I have the intangibles and add some unique talents to really pressure guys and keep up with and stay in front of guys. So, I feel like I’m up there with the best, the Tony Allens.”