George ready to lead Pacers to NBA title
by Michael Pointer, USA TODAY Sports
INDIANAPOLIS — Paul George didn’t envision himself as a leader when he attended USA Basketball’s camp last year to scrimmage against the U.S. Olympic team.
But when he returned to the national team minicamp in Las Vegas last month, the feeling was different. He arrived with an All-Star selection, the NBA Most Improved Player Award and recognition as one of the league’s elite all-around players. He’s now the player expected to lead the Indiana Pacers to their first NBA title.
George said Thursday during a visit to Riley Hospital for Children he’s reveling in that — and it showed in his play against some of the league’s best players this summer.
“I had a great showing out there,” he said. “That was another fun experience for me going into this summer and helping me prepare for this year. I’m looking forward to seeing the results.”
George said he still considered Danny Granger the Pacers’ leader at this time last year, as Granger had been the team’s most productive offensive player for several seasons. That was true even during training camp.
But Granger only played in five games last season because of a knee injury. George looks forward to his teammate’s return, but he understands this is his team after leading the Pacers to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals vs. the Miami Heat.
“A lot comes with that,” George said. “This whole summer, I really trained being the go-to guy and the lead guy for our team. Last year, we still had Danny and did not know the results (of Granger’s injury) coming into the year. I had a role that I had kind of prepared for and trained for. This year, it was more about training to be the No. 1 guy and lead this team.”
USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo declined to comment on George’s performance in detail at this year’s camp but left little doubt he will get strong Team USA consideration for next year’s FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain.
“He made a big impression on us last year and then he enhanced his position big time during the NBA season,” Colangelo said. … [For more on Paul George ready to lead Indiana Pacers to NBA title, click here.]