Just two days ago, I was chatting with a friend about Paul George and dug deep to unearth a silver lining to the leg injury sidelining PG for the upcoming season. While he's rehabbing his leg he can also mature and rehab his image which took a couple of nasty hits throughout the 2012-13 season.
First, there was the Baby Mama drama that blew up social media outlets just when PG and the Pacers were off to a remarkable start to the season. Suddenly, PG was the butt of jokes due to his involvement with a stripper from Miami. The Internet doesn't care how well you step up and take responsibility in such circumstances, which PG did to excess including fighting for custody of his daughter.
Then as the season was going the wrong way for the Pacers, personal and embarrassing pictures of PG started showing up all over those same social media outlets. Several variations of stories about how those pictures made their way to the Internet followed, none of which were verified and all of which were denied by PG.
Doesn't matter. Given the chance to pounce on a celebrity screw up, the Internet dominates.
PG represents the Pacers quite well on the court, in the media and whenever he is doing something for the organization. It is hard to chat with George and not come away thinking he's a good dude. So these cringe-worthy events away from the Fieldhouse seemed out of character. Or at least we hoped they were.
That's why I thought PG would benefit from his rehab year. After the reaction to his injury, it appeared PG's public image was on the incline with everyone rooting for his return after witnessing the devastating injury in Las Vegas. So spending a year out of the direct spotlight would put further distance between PG and the off-court embarrassments and allow him to return as a more mature, 25-year-old player, truly ready to be a franchise leader.
Larry Bird described PG's tweets regarding the Ray Rice domestic abuse case as thoughtless. But forget the (again!) cringe-worthy content of the tweets, the idea of publicly commenting on this delicate topic with finesse of a sledgehammer is outright foolish.
Paul George is now a multi-million dollar corporation. Thanks to his play on the court, he is starting a 5-year contract worth around $97 million. Gatorade and Nike are two premier brands already using George in ad campaigns.
With that big money comes big responsibility and that means not acting like a 24-year who doesn't get it. If that means, toning down your public comments, so be it. As quickly as Gatorade and Nike jumped in to sign up PG, they will just as quickly drop him if his act negatively impacts the brand their promoting.
There are a lot of moving parts to the Ray Rice story and for a day, Paul George took a trip through the spin cycle. PG apologized via Twitter and the team (can you imagine the reaction from Larry Bird when told they were preparing a statement to denounce tweets?) which wasn't enough for some folks.
Personally, I don't care about an apology (I'm certainly not owed an apology), I'm more interested in action. How will PG react to this latest personal embarrassment? What will he do in the future?
For now, sticking to the grind of rehab and focusing on returning to the court and avoiding the foolishness is his only move. It's called taking care of business.