George's Confidence Never Higher
December 3, 2013
The accolades keep on coming for Pacers swingman Paul George, and don’t expect them to end anytime soon. On Tuesday, the NBA announced that he’s the recipient of the Eastern Conference Player of the Month award for his play in the first month of the season. The Pacers have the league’s best record and were successful in 15 of their opening 16 games.
OFFICIAL RELEASE: George Named Player of Month »
MONTIETH Another Marker Along the Fast Lane »
“It's nice recognition for our team and what we have accomplished so far this season,” George said. “While this is an individual honor, I share it with my teammates, the coaches and our franchise because we are all in this together.”
Matching their team-first mentality, those in the organization will praise the team for any individual award. And that’s understandable because without their team success, the award would likely be shipped south to Miami.
LeBron James, who has mutual respect for George, has dominated the award since 2008. He’s won it 18 of a possible 28 times, including five of six months last season.
George is just the third Pacers player to win the award, and the first in more than a decade. Jermaine O’Neal earned the honor three times, the latter in December of 2003. The NBA made it a conference award, rather than league-wide, beginning with the 2001-02 season. Detlef Schrempf also earned the honor in February of 1992.
GALLERY: Paul George Month In Photos »
George isn’t the only member of the Pacers to be recently recognized. On Monday, coach Frank Vogel was named the Eastern Conference’s Coach of the Month for the second time in his career, as he guided the team to a 15-1 record in October and November.
Last month, George was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week for his performances in the second week of games, after just losing out on it the week prior. To say his play has been exceptional thus far would be an understatement.
George is averaging 24.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.2 steals per game this season. In his first 206 games (over three seasons), he scored 30 or more points in four games. Through 18 games this season, he’s already topped it four times, including a career-high 43 in Portland.
Now in his fourth year playing on the big stage, there’s not much Paul George can’t do. He’s one of the best wing defenders, always matched up against the opponent’s most explosive scorer. He’s shooting almost 48 percent from the field and better than 41 percent from long range. He’s a stat stuffer, an all-around player, and he has a passion for the game.
Those around him say his confidence has never been higher. He’s being more assertive, willing to take over when the Pacers need him, and he hasn’t shied away from the spotlight. He takes pride in being everywhere on the floor, and has gotten more comfortable at picking his spots and when to attack.
George doesn’t just want to be among the best in the league, he wants to be the best. That’s why he’s one of the hardest-working players on the team. That’s why he worked with a shooting coach, Mike Penberthy, two to three times each week this past summer. That’s why he not only was invited to Team USA minicamp in July, but was one of the best performers.
George, 23, is in the last year of his four-year rookie deal. But Pacers President Larry Bird, who deserves all the credit for eyeing George and pulling the trigger at No. 10 in the 2010 draft, wanted to lock him up for the foreseeable future. George made it known that he wanted to stay here and the two sides agreed on a long-term contract before training camp opened.
George was last year’s Most Improved Player, a first-time All-Star, named All-NBA Third Team and All-Defensive Second Team. With the success of the Pacers and the way George has performed on the court – he’s fourth in the NBA in scoring at 24.9 points per game – he’s firmly in the conversation for Most Valuable Player. That trophy has belonged to James in four of the last five years.
Of course George’s teammates and coaches will hype him up. He’s their guy. But when other respected names around the league speak highly of the Pacers’ talent, that’s meaningful.
Boston’s Brad Stevens: “He's one of the top five players in the NBA, easy. Maybe top three. I can't believe how good he's gotten.”
Doc Rivers of the Clippers: “Can you win Most Improved and Most Valuable Player? Has that ever been done? It could be done. He won’t win Most Improved because he’s done it before, but to me, the jump that he’s made from last year to this year … he’s the Most Improved Player in the league, and the Most Valuable Player right now.
“The old-school thought on Indiana was that they were a really good basketball team but they didn't have an outlier. They didn't have that one guy that just kind of took games over. Now they do, and now they're great.”
As Roy Hibbert often says, guys on this team are hungry. With an insatiable appetite for the game, George will keep eating.
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