The Indiana Pacers entered the season with expectations of competing for a championship. An injury to Danny Granger, the team’s leading scorer last season, was believed to be a blow the Pacers wouldn’t be able to recover from. Those opinions, however, quickly changed.
The Pacers have played as well as previously expected due in large part to the emergence of Paul George. He has quickly become one of the NBA's best young players and has led Indiana all season. They currently have the third-best record in the Eastern Conference and look like a team that will cause problems for everyone come playoff time. The team’s success hasn’t surprised many; they’re considered to be a well-coached, tough-minded team. George’s improvement, however, has come as a pleasant surprise.
Talk of how good George can become has replaced the fear that came with the news of Granger’s injury that dominated headlines around the team early in the year. As George prepares to play in his first All-Star Game, the 22-year-old forward was finally able to take a step back and enjoy his individual success.
“Now that I’ve made it to the All-Star team, it’s really indescribable, a dream come true,” George said. “Being in the NBA is the main dream, but then you’re talking about being an All-Star and meeting a goal that you’ve set, it’s incredible. When you’re able to reach the goal, it makes you want to reach higher.”
George wasn’t shy about his goal of being an All-Star. From the start of the 2012-13 season, he was confident that his skills would be good enough to take advantage of the opportunity that Granger’s absence would create. While others around the league weren’t sure he was good enough in his third year, George was confident in his skills and felt he had a shot at being an All-Star.
“When the season started, the first thing I said to the press is that I wanted to be an All-Star and for me to be able to reach that role really means a lot,” George said. “I thought it was in my reach to be an All-Star this year. They were talking about Danny (Granger) not coming back for a while and I knew I was going to have to step into his scoring and playmaking roles.”
George always felt his third season would be where he breaks out. As a rookie, he would often tell his teammates that year number three would be his first All-Star appearance.
“My rookie year I used to joke around with the guys and tell them by my third year I would be an All-Star,” George said. “But I didn’t honestly think it would come this fast. I think everything played right into the hands of faith.”
No player makes the All-Star team without help. George credits Pacers’ assistant coach Brian Shaw with assisting him with growing into an All-Star.
“Coach Shaw pushes me. He pushes me to get better,” George said. “If I’m not playing well or there is something I need to work on, anything I need to do he lets me know. I listen to everything he says because he’s won championships as a player and a coach. I know those rings say a lot.”
Things won’t stop here for George. He plans on making many trips to the All-Star game and understands that hard work and attention to detail are the keys to becoming a fixture in the league’s showcase game.
“I need to stay on the path I’ve been on,” he said. “I have to take my game to another level and that starts with continuing to work hard, watching film and becoming a student of the game.
“To start the year off I thought it was in my reach to be an All-Star this year,” George said. “They were talking about Danny (Granger) not coming back for a while and I knew I was going to have to step into his scoring and playmaking roles.