- HOOPSWORLD | Basketball News & NBA Rumors - http://www.hoopsworld.com -
NBA @ 2: Vogel Grows a Guard in Indy
Posted By Alex Raskin On January 5, 2012 @ 2:00 pm In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
Not once, but twice in the last year the Indiana Pacers have tried to plug their hole at the 2 by attempting to trade for Memphis Grizzlies shooting guard O.J. Mayo.
Twice, the deal has fallen through and the Pacers have been left to pick up the pieces.
But in spite of the team’s failed efforts, the answer to coach Frank Vogel’s prayers has been right under his nose the entire time: second-year swingman Paul George.
Without Mayo, George has been thrust into a starting role on a team that many believe could make a serious playoff run.
“Yeah, I think getting to play along with the kind of guys that I have is a great opportunity for me to grow on this team offensively,” George told HOOPSWORLD.
“Grow” is the operative word.
George was drafted as a 6-8, 215-pound string bean, but has suddenly shot up two inches while packing on a few more pounds of muscle.
“I didn’t really notice until I got back here,” George said of his growth spurt. “Everybody was saying that I got taller but I just thought it was people who haven’t seen me in awhile. I measured myself and I ended up being taller then last year.”
Opponents would say he’s better than last year, too.
Through five games George is averaging 12.1 PPG and 4.6 RPG in 33.4 MPG (up from 7.8 PPG, 3.7 RPG and 20.7 MPG). His Player Efficiency Rating is up to 16.37 and his true shooting percentage has rocketed up to 68.6 thanks to his 92.3% mark at the free throw line. George has also bumped his 3-point percentage up to 63.2%, which is obviously unsustainable, but is nonetheless a positive sign.
“Coach (Frank) Vogel has told me many times to be aggressive and take the open shots,” George said. “(I’m) just being more assertive on the offensive end, that’s been the biggest difference. I’m just trying to work on areas of my game that my team needs me the most on offense.”
Perhaps most importantly, George is building of last year’s solid defensive performance against Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose in the playoffs.
Fearing that the 6-4 Rose would be too much for his smallish point guards, Vogel put George on Rose for stretches of time in spite of the then-rookie’s poor defensive reputation.
George still needs work on the defensive end, but he’s using that performance (and his seven-foot-plus wingspan) to propel himself into another class defensively.
“I think that series definitely set the tone for this team and for myself,” George said. “It set the tone for the rest of my career as well. I need to play at that level defensively against everybody that I match up with. It definitely was a building block for my career defensively.”
The Pacers offense is still struggling overall, however the team ranks eighth in defensive efficiency. Having a 6-10 shooting guard might not be directly responsible, but over time opposing 2s are going to start to fear Indiana because they know what kind of talent is growing there.
Kemba Walker Returns Home
Walking through the bowels of the newly remodeled Madison Square Garden, Charlotte Bobcats rookie Kemba Walker was lost. The famous Willis Reed Tunnel was gone and it’s adjoining, chaotic hallway intersection along with it. Now, instead of narrow corridors and hard, right angles, Walker was meandering through a curved labyrinth of locker rooms, television studios and other recently finished nooks.
Most rookies would shrug off the changes because most rookies have never played at MSG, or if they have, they did so only once.
Walker, on the other hand, has been playing in the building since his sophomore year at Harlem’s Rice High School. As a junior the Bronx native upset Chicago power Simeon Career Academy and their blue chip point guard Derrick Rose at the Garden. As a collegiate player at the University of Connecticut, Walker and the Huskies fell to Syracuse in six overtimes at the Big East Tournament. Two years later Walker and the Huskies were back at the Garden where he hit the game-winning shot against third-ranked Pittsburgh to advance to the semi-finals.
So unlike most rookies, Walker was pretty familiar with the venue—or so he thought.
“Completely different,” Walker said before the Bobcats’ 118-110 upset over the Knicks on Wednesday. “Honestly when I was walking back here I had no idea where I was going, so yeah it’s different but it looks nice though.”
But no matter how many changes the building endures, Walker couldn’t help but smile as he was greeted by one familiar face after another. For all of New York City’s enormity, the basketball community makes you feel like you’re living in a small town.
“It’s home,” said Walker, who finished with seven points and five assists against a listless Knicks defense. “You know I’m home. It’s always going to feel like home every time I’m back. It’s MSG. Whenever I get the chance to play here I just get the butterflies. I just try my best to have fun.
“Man it’s exciting I played at MSG at basically every level of my career starting from high school,” he continued. “It feels like the first time I’m back. It feels like the first time I ever played in here it’s exciting.”
Walker hadn’t been in the Garden since last year’s NBA Playoffs when he witnessed the Knicks fall to the Boston Celtics. The 6-1 point guard’s Huskies had captured an NCAA Tournament title prior to the game, which helped him land him a seat next to Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “They lost,” Walker said, “I think brought them some bad luck.”
Walker brought the Knicks bad luck again on Thursday. He didn’t have the biggest impact, but he did put good pressure on the basketball (he had one steal) and Walker ran some halfcourt sets from the point instead of just mindlessly sprinting down court with the basketball.
“Pace was something that took me to the top in college, but it’s something that I’m probably struggling now with in the NBA still,” he said. “I think now that I got it in my mind more I will learn faster.”
Walker—who said he’s thankful to be playing behind point guard D.J. Augustin because “he knows the game so well”—wasn’t the star he’s been in past visits to the Garden. He wasn’t interviewed on a podium after the game and he didn’t take home any hardware.
But Walker is still an undeniable New York City basketball legend, who will have many more memories at the Garden whether the crowd is behind him or not.
“In the past I had more fans cheering for me,” he said afterward. “I am used to hearing my name in the Garden, and there were some, but tonight they were Knicks fans… Tonight they were against me, and I don’t blame them. I was a Knicks fan too, but we won.”
Check Out: Dallas at San Antonio
One of the best rivalries in recent memory will look very different tonight. The Mavericks and the Spurs are tipping-off in San Antonio at 8:30, but the home team will be without injured shooting guard Manu Ginobili while the visitors are sporting a revamped roster that includes Lamar Odom, Delonte West and Vince Carter.
Forward Shawn Marion is a question mark for the 3-4 Mavs, who have won their last two and are finally starting to look more comfortable.
For the Spurs, Tony Parker and Richard Jefferson combined to score 38 points in a win over the Warriors, which is a good sign considering they’ll be playing shorthanded.
The NBA season has a lot of great matchups every year, but these two teams always seem to bring out the best the league has to offer.
More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to inn sure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @AlexKennedyNBA, @jfleminghoops, @TheRocketGuy, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @alexraskinNYC, @TommyBeer and @YannisHW.
NBA Chats: If you are looking for the next NBA Chat, you can find them here: Upcoming NBA Chats.
Article printed from HOOPSWORLD | Basketball News & NBA Rumors: http://www.hoopsworld.com
URL to article: http://www.hoopsworld.com/nba-2-vogel-grows-a-guard-in-indy
Copyright © 2012 HOOPSWORLD | Basketball News & NBA Rumors
Part of the USA TODAY Sports Media Group.