Paul George officially accepted the NBA's Most Improved Player Award on Tuesday morning during a press conference to announce the honor at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
George prepared throughout the offseason to improve his game with an eye toward a bigger role in the 2012-13 season. The loss to the Miami Heat, and his play in the deciding games, fueled his offseason commitment. Then when Danny Granger's knee left him sidelined, that work paid off because PG was ready to step up and fill the void.
"I had to be a better player," George said. "I knew my team needed me. That was my commitment to them."
Frank Vogel heard George discuss his big plans for the offseason like I'm sure he's heard from many players over the years. But the results made PG a man of his word and the way he went about applying those results, to improve his team, really impressed Vogel.
"He left the season last year saying ‘Coach, I'm going to work harder than I ever have this summer and come back a completely different player. Just wait and see you'll be so impressed." And I have been impressed," Vogel said. "But what impresses me the most about Paul is his commitment to playing team basketball. Winning basketball."
George received 52 first-place votes from the panel of 120 media members who listed their top three MIP choices. Players were awarded five points for each first-place vote, three points for each second-place vote and one point for each third place vote received. PG received 311 of a possible 1,080 points, followed by Greivis Vasquez of the New Orleans (146 points, 13 first-place votes) and the Milwaukee Bucks' Larry Sanders (141 points, 10 first-place votes). Lance Stephenson received one third place vote as one of 33 players receiving at least one vote.
PG joins Danny Granger (2009) and Jalen Rose (2000) and Jermaine O'Neal (2002) as one of four Indiana Pacers to win the MIP award. PG certainly earned the award with his monster year that saw his game rise to an All-Star level. I still say Lance Stephenson improved at even a greater clip than PG this year, but most around the league are just figuring that out.
Simply a great honor for the 22-year-old with enough room for his game to grow that he could win the MIP again.