Conrad Brunner Caught in the Web banner headline

George Adapting to Life As A Starter

by Conrad Brunner || Caught in the Web Archive

March 17, 2011

( Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Like most young players entering the NBA, Paul George has spent most of his basketball life as the first option, and has had to adapt to the reality that no longer is the case.

"He's one of those guys you don't have to run a play for and he can still get you 15 a night if he's playing regular minutes," said interim coach Frank Vogel. "That's his focus and that's what he's doing well at."

George had his best offensive game as a starter in Wednesday's 92-80 loss in Boston, scoring 15 points on 6-of-13 shooting, including 3-of-5 from the 3-point line, in 33 minutes. With primary scorers Danny Granger (5-of-16) and Tyler Hansbrough (4-of-14) both struggling and Roy Hibbert limited to 23 minutes by foul trouble, George stepped forward.

With the Pacers trailing 44-31 late in the first half, he made consecutive buckets to start an 11-3 run that cut the deficit to five. He also had a 3-pointer in a brief surge that cut it to 54-50 but the Celtics weren't about to be caught.

"I want to continue to grow and continue to build on the things that I've worked on so far," George said. "I honestly feel I'm nowhere close to being the best I can be right now and that's just my attitude to keep on going. I want to continue to improve so hopefully I can solidify this spot as a starter."

His priorities at the moment are providing energy and defense and he has done both well. Defensively, he has produced at least one steal in 10 straight games, averaging 1.9 in that span. In five starts, he is averaging 2.2 steals. His aggression at times needs to be tempered as he has struggled with foul trouble but that will come with experience.

"I think there may be less shots for him at times but the way he plays, he just plays an aggressive brand of basketball and he's getting his shots," Vogel said. "The area he's getting in trouble right now is he's been too aggressive on the defensive end and fouling too much and that's putting him on the bench. We want him to stay on the court because he can play.

"This is a great chance for him to learn, it's a great experience, it's a good confidence builder and he's earned it. This is not something we're just throwing him in there by default. He's played well, he has a tremendous attitude, he learns and it's a good chance for him."

At shooting guard, George routinely draws daunting matchups, including Boston's Ray Allen, who scored 12 points in 27 minutes. But the rookie doesn't shy away from those challenges. Instead, he craves them.

"I don't dread any matchups," he said. "I look forward to taking on all opponents. I think I held my own against (Dwyane) Wade, did OK against Monta (Ellis), think I got a couple guys under my belt that I did an OK job against to give me confidence to go against some other guys."

Considering the roller-coaster ride of his rookie season – opening the year in the rotation, then heading to the bench for most of November and now emerging as a starter under Vogel – George is happy with his current role, although he plans for its continued evolution.

"Later down the line, hopefully when I'm experienced and know this game pretty well," he said, "I can be that go-to guy."

Maybe then, it will be the opponents that have to make the adjustments.