Caught in the Web Indiana Pacers blog: George a stunning sequel to Human Highlight Film

George a stunning sequel to Human Highlight Film



Feb. 5, 2012 - Given his remarkable array of skills, Paul George could be a very busy man come All-Star Weekend. He's a lock for the rookie-sophomore game and belongs in both the 3-point shootout and the slam-dunk contest.

So how would Coach Frank Vogel like to see his second-year star spend the big event?

"He should rest the whole weekend," he said with a smile, "and get ready for the second half of the year."

Sorry, coach. Not much chance of that.

Indiana's sequel to the Human Highlight Film (the original, of course, was Dominique Wilkins) is coming off the best week of his young career, flashing the all-around game that has so many predicting stardom for the 6-9 swingman from Fresno State. He racked up 24 points on 8 of 11 shooting in a victory over New Jersey Tuesday. That career high lasted only a couple of days, as he followed up with 30 points including seven 3-pointers to spark a victory in Dallas Friday.

But it wasn't just the point totals that impressed. In those two games, he also racked up 13 rebounds, six assists, seven steals and two blocked shots. For the week, George averaged 19.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 2.75 steals and 1.5 blocked shots while shooting .563 overall and .519 (14 of 27) from the 3-point line.

When someone suggested to Stan Van Gundy that George was having a great week, the Orlando coach offered a correction.

"Paul George is having a great year," he said. "I don't know that he necessarily has taken his game to another level. He's playing very well. Maybe it's a matter of what Frank's doing and he's getting more opportunities. … He can really play. I don't think anybody's surprised by what he's done."

The Pacers historically have lacked athletic panache. Even during their best years during the 1990s they were a blue-collar team with an offense built around Reggie Miller's 3-point shooting and Rik Smits' low-post purity and a defense rooted in the magical hands of Derrick McKey and the biceps of Dale and Antonio Davis.

George is changing all of that.

He has easy athleticism, which is to say he has the speed to chase down Jason "Jet" Terry in transition, the jumping ability to soar high above the rim to block his shot from behind and the control to save the ball inbounds and hurry upcourt to hit an open 3-pointer, just to use that one game-chancing sequence from Friday night as an example.

"I've seen glimpses of it since he got here," Vogel said. "He's a talented weapon at both ends of the floor, as versatile as they come. … The way he drives the ball and gets to the rim, finishes around the basket, he's got a smooth stroke, single-handedly dismantled Dallas' zone with his 3-point attack. It does come easy for him."

Among second-year players, George ranks fourth in scoring (12.4), fifth in rebounding (5.5), seventh in assists (2.2) and second in steals (1.39). His overall Player Efficiency Rating as calculated by NBA.com ranks fourth, behind Blake Griffin, DeMarcus Cousins and John Wall.

The beauty of his game, at least from Vogel's standpoint, is that George does not need his number called to be productive. In the New Jersey game, Vogel said he called plays for George two or three times. In Dallas, the number was around four. George is able to get his points from the flow of the offense rather than isolations or pick-and-roll plays.

"I think I'm starting to understand a little bit better what shots I'm going to get, where to be on the floor," George said. "I think just another level of maturity is the biggest part for me right now. I've just got to learn now. Teams are understanding that I can score and shoot the ball, so it's having counters for anything they try to take away from me and just growing from that."

He remains our little secret for now but that could all change at the end of the month when All-Star Weekend arrives in Orlando -- assuming the NBA has his number.

If he had his choice of events, what would George prefer?

"I'd rather do the 3-point (contest) because I can relax," he said. "I won't be wasting too much energy. But I do want to be part of the dunk contest and the rookie-sophomore game."

He understands why Vogel would want him to rest. But he also recognizes opportunity.

"If I've got a chance to be a part of that," he said, "I'm all for it."

No rest for the worthy.

Follow @conrad_brunner on Twitter