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Paul George heading into prime years for Pacers, time to be the man

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Paul George celebrates his birthday on Saturday reminding us that time flies and the Pacers young star is now heading into his prime playing years. Will he be the man for the Pacers?

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Happy birthday to Paul George as the Pacers star turns 25 on Saturday. Suddenly, the self-tabbed 'Young Trece' (or @yg_trece to be exact) isn't so young in the context of NBA years.

PG earned a max deal with his development as a young player and as he begins his prime years, the Pacers are betting on George to be the team's franchise player. Coming off of a brutal leg injury, PG will have some space at the start of next season, but by the end of the year, he needs to be the two-way monster capable of changing the game at either end of the floor that we all envision.

Fortunately, PG was able to get back on the floor to end the season which allowed him to work through some mental and physical rust after rehabbing for eight months. He showed flashes of an improved offensive game which is where is game has to improve to go to the next level. His desire to make big plays has always been there, but his approach was often immature resulting in poor passes, forces shots or loose ball handling.

If PG wants to enter conversations with the likes of Stephen Curry, James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant - all players emerging in their prime between ages 25-27 - then the Pacers' star has to be a consistent threat on offense to go along with his defensive consistency. That requires a mature approach on offense, maximizing strengths and being aware of limitations.

What George does on the floor is different than those other four whose impact is measured mostly on the offensive end. But impacting winning, whether by being a two-way trouble maker or like Curry, a ridiculous play maker, is what makes those players elite, leading their teams to wins.

After  PG's leg is fully recovered, youth will no longer be an excuse. It will be time for 'Trece' to be the man.