Welp, that was fun.
The Pacers opened the preseason with a 110-105 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday night, but the highlight of the night came an hour after the game when Paul George spoke his mind with the media and made it clear he isn't on board with the team's effort to change their style of play which has him playing power forward.
"I don't know if I'm cut out for the four spot," George said. "I don't know if this is my position. We'll sit and watch tape and I'm sure I'll talk with coach, I'll talk with Larry as well to get both their input on how the first game went. But I'm still not comfortable with it, regardless of the situation. It's still something I've got to adjust to o r maybe not. Maybe it's something we can go away from."
Whoa. Without PG willing to make the new system work, will the Pacers end the experiment before it begins?
PG's demeanor in delivering his assessment dripped with a negative frustration. The fact Frank Vogel was much later than usual addressing the media and that PG didn't make himself available for almost an hour after the game leads to speculation that maybe those discussions with coach and team president started right after the game.
The funny thing is, PG looked pretty good to start the game while matched up with Anthony Davis, arguably the most dynamic power forward he will be matched up with during the season. PG and C.J. Miles scored the team's first 19 points with PG blowing by Davis for a dunk and draining a pair of threes over him.
But defense and the responsibilities on defense while playing the four is where PG claims he's most uncomfortable. He also indicated he's not the only one.
"Defensively, it's rough, it's rough," George said. "It's an adjustment because I'm not used to doing some of the things out there. I mean, I'm exerting more energy from having to hedge on a ball screen, get back down low to a shot going up, now having to box out. So I don't know, I don't know."
Boxing out and rebounding in general with the small lineup is an issue which Vogel admitted following the game. But for the preseason Vogel planned to use PG in the power forward spot as much as possible in the preseason, even if that wasn't necessarily the plan for the regular season. Knowing that context didn't make things any better for PG.
"Honestly, I'd rather build on what we're going to do going into the season," he said. "We're playing around with this style now and trying to figure things out but it's not just myself. The four other guys out there, it was an adjustment for them. We're all talking, a couple other guys are uncomfortable with how we're going to run it and things like that. It's new to everyone. It's new to everybody. This is what preseason's for, it's game one, we've just got to build off it."
Hard to say playing the Pelicans was a physically demanding test for PG and in reality, there are not many big physical front lines, but whether imagined or not, PG is not on board with the small-ball style of play Vogel is trying to install. As the key cog, without PG pulling in the same direction the Pacers are headed for systemic failure.