Paul George introduced himself to the local media on Friday, along with Larry Bird and Jim O’Brien, giving us a glimpse into the eyes of Pacers first round pick. Never mind how creepy that sounds, only to take a look into what will from here forth be known as The First Impression of Paul George (or maybe along those lines?). What will it look like in four years? Heck, what will it look like by February?
Bird had an eye on George very early in the process and said that he was a fan of George’s defensive ability and length. Not to take away from George, but Bill Simmons pointed out something rather interesting in regards to George’s "length":
Bilas just mentioned that George was 6-foot-8 with a 6-11 wingspan. According to the Google search I just did, the human wingspan is normally 1.07 times a person's height. So if George is 80 inches, and his wingspan is 83 inches, actually, that's a wingspan about 2½ inches smaller than it should be. I'm glad I'm here.
This was after he bashed the pick, much as a fair shake of draft grade articles that have popped up have, so of course, it only makes sense that both Obie and Bird implored the training staff works diligently to bring out George’s potential (which isn’t much, only "best player in the draft" potential). It’s only natural you would expect your new rookie to work hard to become the best possible player, but one of the knocks on George was that he had a questionable motor, so it would appear that Bird and O’Brien want to lay that task on the training staff to make sure it becomes a good motor.
It wasn’t just the workout season that caught Bird’s attention. It certainly appeared Bird had his eye on George during the college season. At least that’s how he describes it. Bird enjoyed his athleticism, which is exactly the kind of thing the Pacers need and along with potential, the kind of player Indiana is looking for. Since potential and athleticism was the theme of the draft, will Bird parlay that philosophy into the summer trade season? It would help tremendously to have young, athletic talent coming in for whatever’s going out.
With the acquisition of George (as well as Lance Stephenson), the Pacers suddenly find themselves stacked at the wing position. When asked about how this allows George to settle into his role with the team without the pressure of having to be an immediate impact, Bird noted that it’s all about the growth he showcases, not about his status as a rookie. We saw similar growth with A.J. Price, and never got to see much from Tyler Hansbrough, unfortunately. Like with George, the same should be considered for Stephenson, as his growth, even as a second round pick, is still vital to the Pacers.
Certainly, George joins a wing heavy rotation (whether he plays 2 or 3) and will have to battle an array of veterans, who likely wouldn’t take too kindly to being usurped by a rookie (I’m mainly referring to Brandon Rush, hopefully). Jim O’Brien had his fair share to say, some general Obie, others mostly relevant to the topic at hand. With the heavy wing presence, O’Brien will continue to work hard to find that winning combination.
That combination largely eluded the coach last season, but one credit to O’Brien is that he will play the players that are on their games the most at that time. Minutes won’t be given to anyone who isn’t Danny Granger or Troy Murphy, so when Obie says he plans to weed out the weaker players, you can assume he’s not kidding around. Just ask Luther Head about that. O’Brien mentioned the change in culture that was brought to the franchise in 2007 and has been working towards making hard work the identity of the players on the Pacers. It’s important to Obie, as well as the fans, that George steps in to the locker room realizing that basketball is a 12 month job, that improving never stops.
This has hit home to Roy Hibbert and Josh McRoberts especially, but O’Brien remains hopefully the fruits of their labors (as well as those in Rush and eventually Price) pay dividends on the floor. He would love to see that type of commitment from George. I can echo this sentiment. If work ethic is the thing keeping Paul George from being the "best player in the draft" after all, it’s key he not only put in the work, but realize that he needs to put in the work. You can’t just hold his feet to the fire and hope he gets the memo, he has to actually get the memo. Thankfully, it appears George has a good head on his shoulder. Learning from Danny and Roy is a good place to start.
With the arrival of George, O’Brien is excited about having another player who can create his own shot. Aside from Granger, the team was heavily devoid of players who could create for themselves last season. Earl Watson and Luther Head get gold stars for trying, but were unable to execute enough to finish the job often. Curiously, Obie mentions Rush as a player who is learning to create his own shot. I’ll leave the verdict out on that until I see him show up before March. He’s certainly got the ability to, but whether he actually, I don’t know, puts in the work, I will wait to see.
Coach finished off with a classic Obieism, his love for floor spacing shooters. Certainly, there are positives in the philosophy, but negatives in being so heavily reliant on it. There are times and places to discuss that, but overall, it appears George fits into what O’Brien wants to do with this team. Regardless of how George pans out (Ridiculous Upside thinks the combo with Granger will be "unbelievable"), Larry Bird is getting players for a system instead of getting players that he wants. Even if that system is no longer in place after this year, I like that he’s catching on to that.
In the end, I think there are still a lot of positives in this pick for the Pacers. I’m on board with Paul George, and I hope he showcases enough in the Orlando Summer League that we can all give the thumbs up. Wait, what about George? Wasn’t he at this press conference? Well, I believe there’s very little to take from the things he said that aren’t all words.
Not to say that George didn’t say anything worth noting, but he passed the test by simply answering the questions without throwing up any red flags. It’s impossible to know how much he will make good on, just as it was impossible to know how much Rush, Hibbert, or Hansbrough would or will make good on through their initial conferences. George talked about work, about having high character and desire, and asked us all to not worry too much about his college production. After all, Paul George has got this. I’ll trust him until he shows me he doesn’t.