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NBA PM: The Evolution of Paul George
Posted By Alex Kennedy On April 25, 2013 @ 4:57 pm In NBA | No Comments
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The Evolution of Paul George
Last February, Paul George sat in front of his locker and listed his personal goals.
“I want to continue to grow as a team player and be on a winning team.”
“I want to be the MVP of this league one day.”
George, in his third season, has already achieved two of those three goals. He was named to the Eastern Conference All-Star team this season and emerged as the best player on the contending Indiana Pacers. The 22-year-old made such huge strides this season that he won the NBA’s 2012-13 Most Improved Player award earlier this week. He averaged career-highs across the board, putting up 17.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.8 steals in 79 games this season.
To understand just how far George has come, consider the fact that he wasn’t even invited to participate in the Rookie-Sophomore game during his first year in the league. Now, he’s the only member of the 2010 NBA Draft class that has been selected as an All-Star.
“I told myself at the start of the year that this was going to be a huge year for me, that this could be a breakout year for me,” George said. “The thing that I wanted to do most was to just be aggressive. I wanted to really look to make plays and really look to score. They always say that the third year is a pivotal year for guys who are up-and-coming, and I wanted this year to really be a breakout [season].”
George’s teammates always knew that he had potential, but they’ve been extremely impressed with how quickly he has emerged as a star.
“If you ask him who was the first person to say the sky is the limit [for him], he’ll tell you that I was the one,” Roy Hibbert said. “I’ll take all of the credit for that. But he puts in the work, he comes in early, he shoots before games and he lifts. He’s doing all of things that he needs to do to be a professional and it’s really paying off. I’m just seeing him grow. I remember being with him in Orlando last year for the All-Star break and I told him the sky is the limit. I told him that he’s going to be an All-Star and he’s going to be great. He’s been putting in the work and he deserves everything.”
Not only does George seem like an entirely different player, he also seems like an entirely different person this year. Last season, he was usually quiet and reserved. He would defer to veterans Danny Granger, David West and Roy Hibbert on the court as well as off the court. He didn’t want to speak for the team and didn’t seem comfortable when being interviewed. Now, George is confident and used to being in the limelight.
The loss to the Miami HEAT in last year’s Conference Semifinals really stuck with George and contributed to his growth as a player and leader. Over the offseason, he reviewed film of the series over and over again. He was disappointed in his lack of production as he averaged just 10 points in the six games. That’s when George realized that he needed to be more aggressive going forward. He also realized just how resilient a team has to be to win the championship.
“I thought we really grinded that team out and took everything out of them physically and mentally so for them to still go on and win the championship, that really spoke volumes about what it takes to be at that elite level,” George said of Miami. “That’s what really stood out to me, personally. As a team, there were a lot of things that we took away from that: the toughness that we needed to have, the execution and the ability to make shots when it counts.”
George, proving that he’s no longer afraid to speak for the Pacers or make bold statements, told HOOPSWORLD earlier this season that he and his teammates are hoping to face the HEAT again.
“This is definitely a team that’s always ready for that next step and that next task,” George said. “I think if you ask anyone in here how bad we want that rematch, we’d all be up for it.”
This postseason, George has been much more effective, averaging 25 points, 9.5 rebounds, 7.5 assists, 2.5 steals and one block. He has been the Pacers’ best player on both ends of the court. Not only is he leading Indiana in scoring, the Atlanta Hawks have shot just 6-20 when George guarding them. Kyle Korver, one of the best shooters in the league, is 2-8 with George on him.
George has improved drastically, but this is only the beginning for the 22-year-old. He’s one of the youngest stars in the league and, as Hibbert coined, the sky is the limit for him. Don’t forget, he still has one goal left on his list. Winning the MVP award seems like a long shot, but so did being selected an All-Star in his third season and becoming one of the best perimeter players in the league. George has lofty expectations for himself and he’s going to continue working hard to meet them.
Brandon Jennings Sticking With Prediction
Milwaukee Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings doesn’t lack confidence. Throughout his career, he has developed a reputation as someone who won’t back down from anyone and who will say whatever is on his mind.
The latest example of this is Jennings’ prediction that the Bucks will defeat the Miami HEAT in six games. Milwaukee is expected to be swept by Miami, but don’t tell that to Jennings.
“We’re just going to go out there, play basketball and win,” Jennings said before the series. “We’re going to win in six.”
Now, the Bucks find themselves in a 0-2 hole after losing the first two games of the series in Miami. However, Jennings isn’t backing off of his prediction. He still believes Milwaukee will take down the reigning NBA champions in six games, which means he expects the Bucks to take the next four games.
“I still say six,” Jennings told TNT’s Craig Sager. “We’ll just see what happens. It might take a little bit longer. I think we’ve shown so much improvement. We had [Game 2] in our hands, and we just let it slip towards the end a little bit. But as a team, we’ve shown a lot of improvement.”
Even though the Bucks lost the first two games of the series, Jennings believes they showed that they could play with the HEAT. He’s feeling just as confident about his prediction after those two games and he thinks Milwaukee has what it takes to not only steal Game 3, but make this series interesting.
“Well, Game 1 is always the one you want to get out of the way so everyone can get their jitters out,” Jennings said. “The second game, I thought we came out with a lot of energy and we came out with a lot of purpose. We were determined to win, we just fell short. Game 3, I don’t see us backing down. I just see us pulling up our intensity even more.”
Game 3 between the HEAT and Bucks is tonight at 7 p.m. ET on TNT.
Billy King Signs Multi-Year Extension With Nets
The Brooklyn Nets made the jump from bottom feeder to playoff team this season and general manager Billy King is being rewarded. King will sign a multi-year extension with the Nets in the coming days and an announcement is expected soon, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports.
King’s contract would have expired after this season, which is why Brooklyn is inking King to a new deal now. The two sides had been negotiating since the fall and are now close to finalizing an agreement.
When King took over as general manager of the Nets, the team was coming off of a 12-70 season and in search of an identity.
King acquired Deron Wiliams in a blockbuster trade with the Utah Jazz and persuaded him sign a long-term deal with the Nets. He also traded for veterans Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace, and signed Brook Lopez to a long-term contract. King has transformed the Nets into an experienced, perennial playoff team.
The Nets still have to make a decision on interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo, who took over for Avery Johnson earlier in the season.
Brooklyn finished the season 49-33 and the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. The Nets are currently battling the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the playoffs and the series is tied, 1-1.
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