Paul George makes hard work look easy for Pacers

USA TODAY Sports

Nothing comes easy in the NBA and the Pacers 22-year old budding star has put in plenty of hard work to elevate his game and the Pacers to a new level this season.

Indiana Pacers forward Paul George played a little over 87 minutes combined while helping lead the Pacers to wins over the Miami Heat and New York Knicks earlier this week.

As smooth as George looks on the floor, it appears he could run all day, getting it done on both ends of the floor at such a high level dose take a physical toll on the young fella, but his preparation keeps him producing through the extra work.

PG's recent stretch of remarkable, hello-world-I-have-superstar-level-talent play started after putting a goose in the scoring column at Golden State on Dec. 1. The next day he went to work in the gym, changed his pre-game routine to add more work, pushing himself to improve. That extra work required an adjustment period as he pounded his body into better shape. But after a couple of weeks, the fourth quarter leg cramps were no longer an issue. Like a distance runner, he expanded his level of fitness and endurance to handle playing heavy minutes at an all-star level.

That doesn't mean it is easy.

"It's a task being able to guard guys and score at the same time," George said after logging nearly 44 minutes on Thursday against the Knicks. "It definitely wears you down but I think my conditioning and wind are starting to get better."

I'll say.

Not only did George play the heavy minutes against the Heat and Knicks but he also did his best work in the second half, carrying the Pacers for stretches at time. It certainly helped that when dueling LeBron James and J.R. Smith, PG was able to keep working, and just as importantly keep them working, through the final buzzer.

"I have certain moments throughout the game where I know I'm gasping for air but I know when it gets late in the game I just feel like that's when my second wind kicks in and my body just doesn't feel anything anymore," George said.

PG should get a few more minutes of rest against Charlotte on Saturday, but if Frank Vogel needs him, he'll be ready to go. Against the Knicks, Vogel tightened his wing rotation because he didn't want to force Orlando Johnson to try to guard J.R. Smith. Since Smith played over 40 minutes off the bench, PG rarely left the court.

Fortunately, George is young so when Vogel picks his spots and needs the heavy minutes, deuce fo is ready to go. But this also highlights how important Danny Granger's return will be. Even though he's young, it would be hard to expect George to maintain his current pace for another three months AND THEN the playoffs.

Regardless of when Granger returns, he won't be in prime time shape for at least another month. But having 33 available to pitch in solid minutes and keep PG fresh down the stretch of the season. At some point, George Hill will be healthy again, David West will find his shot and Roy Hibbert will do something (anything?).

But until then, PG will just keep running and defending and scoring and helping the Pacers win games.

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