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George Relishes Challenge of Guarding Rose

by Conrad Brunner || Caught in the Web Archive

April 20, 2011

( Getty Images)

Given Derrick Rose's 36 points in Game 2, following 39 in Game 1, you might develop the impression the Pacers are concerned about the player assigned to defend the Chicago point guard.

You would, of course, be wrong.

"I give him an A-plus," Frank Vogel said of Paul George's work.

Assigning a rookie wing player to defend any point guard is a bold move. Assigning a rookie wing player to defend this point guard, the hottest player in the game, the likely league MVP, is something else entirely.

Then again, so is George.

When the Pacers returned home from Chicago after a 96-90 loss in Game 2 Monday night, George did not head home for some much-needed rest. Instead, at 4 a.m., he and a friend drove straight to Conseco Fieldhouse for a couple of hours of extra work.

George said he put up around 1,000 shots and ran through some plays that had given him problems.

"I was more motivated than anything so me and my (friend) came in, got some shots up, he rebounded for me, got a lot of free throws," George said. "I just went through the scenarios that I turned the ball over late in the game. The play that coach Frank kept calling for me where I was isolated at the top, I kept going through that series just so that doesn't happen again."

George had four blocked shots and three steals in Game 2. Vogel said he set a team record with 18 deflections.

"I thought he was spectacular on (Rose)," said Vogel. "A couple of breakdowns but a couple of breakdowns over the course of a long game, I thought he did a great job. He was great with his hands, great with his angles. I was just very proud of him."

George has done extensive film study on Rose to try to pick up some tendencies. With each game, he learns a little more, develops a more detailed plan of attack. Shutting down Rose is out of the question. Making his life difficult is the first step.

"He had me tired, legs cramping, back sore," George said. "I tried to give him my all, really tried to force him to take some tough shots and make him try to make some tough passes, and really tried to get the ball out of his hands. But he's a great scorer, a great player and he ultimately made the best plays."

Since moving into the starting lineup on March 9, George's emphasis has shifted from offense to defense. With the second unit he was more of a go-to guy. With the first unit, he's trying be the stopper.

His commitment to that role has made a big impression on Vogel.

"You see talented guys come into this league every single year and some of them blossom and some of them don't," he said. "It's about what you're made up of inside. And that kid is made up of hunger and the ability to learn, the ability to listen, the desire to be great.

"Aside from his physical talents, all those things give us a great deal of hope and belief that kid's going to be special."

George is not expected to stop Rose. He is not expected to contain him one-on-one. All five Indiana defenders have a role to play. George is the man on point, so to speak.

However this series turns out, the Pacers have learned quite a bit about their prized rookie, the No. 10 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. George is one of those rare players who not only has the talent but the desire, the will, the work ethic, to become special.

It's a long journey from here to there but that early-morning trip to the gym shows George knows the way.