George's excuses ring increasingly hollow
Feb. 03, 2016
Paul George shot 3-for-15 with 5 turnovers against LeBron James and the Cavs. (Photo: Pacers)
You want to play smashmouth basketball with more athletic big men?
You want to play small-ball with a spread lineup?
None of it matters until the Pacers figure out how to make Paul-ball work.
Given his dark mood of recent weeks, perhaps Pall-ball would be more fitting.
Paul George entered this season a heroic, sympathetic figure fighting his way back from a massive injury, with the support of the basketball world behind him.
But what started after the first preseason game, when George made it clear he had no more interest in playing power forward in a spread lineup after getting abused by Anthony Davis, has only escalated. Each time a problem has confronted him, he has turned away from it, leaving only excuses in his wake.
First, it was Frank Vogel’s insistence on using a spread lineup, something George decided was uncomfortable despite the fact the very basis for its implementation was to create more opportunities for him.
Then he decided it was physical fatigue, his legs sapped by the enormous energy it took to produce those remarkable November numbers. It was understandable on one level, given his length of time away from the game, but in truth the greater issue was mental fatigue. Every NBA player hits the wall more than once during the six-month grind of the regular season, and mind must conquer matter to break through.
Then, as the team continued to struggle in close games, he decided it was the absence of David West’s on-court leadership that led to so many late-game malfunctions. George apparently was oblivious to the fact he was indicting his own lack thereof.
After his latest walk-through, a 3-for-15, five-turnover night against LeBron James in an overtime loss to the Cavs, he blamed the officials, saying “obviously the calls wasn’t going my way tonight,” which allowed him to shrug off another listless, ineffectual performance.
Now comes his latest pity party, and it might be the most absurd. Despite the fact Vogel has abandoned the spread lineup in favor of George’s preferred traditional group with two big men, the face of the franchise is still frowning because he isn’t getting as many shots as he was in November.
“Before, I was confident that I was going to catch a rhythm just off of the shots and the looks I was getting,” he told the IndyStar after practice Tuesday. “Once one goes down, I’m a guy that has to see it going in and I catch fire that way. It’s been a little tough trying to find and pick and choose and trying to get shots in the offense without taking away from getting other guys going in and a flow.”
Monta Ellis has been getting more touches lately, not because there is a movement afoot to freeze out George but because the veteran guard has been far more efficient and productive. Myles Turner has been getting more touches lately, not because there is a movement afoot to freeze out George but because the rookie has quickly established himself as a viable threat.
And yet George chooses to take these positive developments for the team as a personal affront. Instead of appreciating that the greater the threats posed by Ellis and Turner, the more attention defenses will have to pay to them – and therefore not to him – George manages to twist it into an excuse for his own problems.
It was even suggested in the IndyStar story that George freely allows other facets of his game to suffer when he isn’t getting enough touches, as if that was a legitimate reason he failed to box out LeBron James with the Pacers down 107-106 Monday night. James rebounded Kyrie Irving’s missed 3-pointer, resulting in a pair of free throws that made it a three-point game.
George and George Hill, experienced teammates, then botched the Pacers’ final opportunity at a tie by failing to execute properly.
“You get late in the game and you haven’t had a shot in a while, haven’t had a good look in a while, haven’t had the ball in your hand in a while,” he said. “I’m all about rhythm and sometimes late in games it’s like, ‘Man, I haven’t you know been in rhythm this whole little stretch.’ It’s hard to catch your rhythm and find your rhythm when you’re rhythmless for an extended period of time.”
Must’ve been the lack of rhythm that caused him to drive into traffic 30 seconds prior, have a soft shot blocked and then stop to complain to officials rather than run back on defense with the game very much on the line.
What’s missing here, aside from all those shots, is accountability, responsibility, professionalism, leadership, all of those qualities that separate talented players from great ones.
He’s still just 25 years old, so maybe it will come with time.
Maybe the next time he fails to move without the ball, maybe the next time he gives up on a play if it doesn’t develop quickly enough, maybe the next time he dribbles it off his leg trying to turn a simple play into a SportsCenter Top Ten highlight, Paul George will realize what really is missing: