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George Hits a Landmark, Faces a Question

by Mark Montieth | askmontieth@gmail.com

February 13, 2013, 11:46 PM

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Paul George collecting a triple-double was as inevitable as the arrival of the All-Star break. He had been nipping at it throughout the season, falling a rebound short here and an assist short there, but his game is too well-rounded for it not to happen eventually.

It happened on Wednesday, when he dumped 23 points, 12 rebounds, 12 assists and just one turnover on Charlotte in a 101-77 win at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. That made George the 17th player in the franchise's NBA history to get a triple-double, but more relevant to current events is the fact he's the third player this season to get one. Jermaine O'Neal's triple-double in 2003 was the most recent when the season began, but suddenly there's a rush on the market. Roy Hibbert and David West preceded George, and George Hill had one for a week or so before but league officials took an assist away after reviewing the video.

George's is the 33rd triple-double in the franchise's NBA history, but it marks the first time three different players have achieved one in the same season. That surely says something about the makeup of the team, but what?

“We always play for one another,” George said. “We really rely on getting guys open. That's just our style of play. Our assist numbers are always up there and we rebound well as a team.”

The gargantuan scoreboard kept everyone, George included, informed of his progress toward the landmark. Defensive rebounds were low-hanging fruit in the final period, when Charlotte hit just 5-of-23 shots, and George helped himself to six of them. The one he got with 6:29 left made it official, drawing a standing ovation from many in the crowd of 11,707. George stuck around long enough to add two more rebounds, an assist, a steal and four points before exiting to another ovation at 3:29.

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“The most impressive thing about Paul George is that he's truly a team-first guy,” coach Frank Vogel said. “He tries to make the right basketball play every time he has the ball. If they double-team him he's going to try to find somebody; he's a good playmaker. Sometimes young players come in this league and force and look for their own, and he doesn't do that.”

George heads to Houston on Thursday to prepare for his first All-Star appearance. When the Pacers resume practice on Monday evening, however, he and his teammates are likely to face a major adjustment. Danny Granger was judged to be not yet ready for his season debut on Wednesday because of flu symptoms and lingering soreness in his troublesome left knee, but he's expected to join the team next week, presumably in time for Wednesday's game against New York.

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The addition of a former All-Star and the leading scorer over the past five seasons is as inevitable as George's triple-double to bring about changes. If and when Granger returns he's expected to come off the bench for awhile, but Vogel's plan is to eventually work him back into the starting lineup in place of Lance Stephenson.

Then what?

Will Granger's return bring improvement, or cause disruption? And if it results in improvement, how long will it take for it all to come together? That's perhaps the make-or-break issue hovering over the Pacers' season, and will require sacrifices from everyone, Granger included.

“We know there's going to be a change adding Danny,” George said. “There's going to be new rotations and new roles, I'm sure. It's something we'll have to adjust to, but we played so well last year with the rotation we had. We're excited.”

George can't help but wonder, though. He and Granger get along fine, always have, but he's a first-time All-Star with superstar potential, far more advanced than the guy who played with Granger last season. He's not the type of player a team should want to curtail too much on anybody's behalf.

How much will George's role change?

“I hope not much,” he said. “I really hope not much. That's the most I can say, I hope it doesn't change much.”