Paul George talks to press at Media Day 2012

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Paul George Aiming for All-Star Bid

by Mark Montieth

July 23, 2012

Standing before a half-huddle of microphones, dressed in both his game uniform and game face, Paul George laid it out for the world to hear.

“I want to be an All-Star, of course,” he said. “I feel like that's in my reach. Nothing aside from the team success, but I just feel like this is a year I can be aggressive and make a name for myself.”

Looking at George, as he fulfilled his media day obligations for the Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Monday, it was difficult to doubt him. His posture was erect, his expression unflinching, and his words unencumbered by doubt. And for those not within range of his words on Monday, there's always his Twitter bio.

“Don't tell me the sky is the limit when there are footprints on the moon!” @King24George proclaims.

Well, now.

If George backs proclamation with performance, the Pacers could be in for some serious fun in the upcoming season. The third-year swingman brings the greatest argument for team improvement, should physical potential and emotional maturity merge into the fast lane. At 22, he's the youngest starter by at least 3 ½ years, and also the most physically gifted. While Roy Hibbert, David West, Danny Granger and George Hill all are within close range of their prime, George appears to have plenty of room left for improvement. The team's growth could very well mirror his growth, although bench play could provide a boost as well.

“I have a lot of pressure going into my third year,” George said. “A lot of people are expecting me to really get out of the shadows of Danny Granger or Roy Hibbert or whatever. I'm ready for the task.”

He showed flashes of brilliance amid a season of steady contributions by averaging 12.1 points and 5.6 rebounds as a starter last season, but the playoffs brought hard lessons. Through 11 games—a first-round win over Orlando and a second-round loss to Miami—his scoring dropped to 9.7 points and his shooting percentages dipped to .389 from the field and .268 from the three-point line. The Miami series was particularly instructive, as he experienced the wrath of Heat guard Dwayne Wade.

He emerged from the postseason a not-quite-ready-for-prime-time player, but one with time on his side.

“What he experienced last year in the playoffs was great for him,” teammate Danny Granger said. “It really got his fire going. He's driven.”

Some of George's drive also came from his experience with the USA Men's Select Team, which practiced against the Olympic team in July. From that, George got a chance to play against the best, and observe how the best carries itself off the court.

“I watched everything,” he said. “The way they were eating, their workouts before practice … they were real professional.”

George impressed teammates and coaches alike with his play in the September workouts at the Fieldhouse. George's backup, Gerald Green, called his game “unbelievable,” citing its ballhandling and defensive abilities. Hibbert noted George's improved strength, and the number of game-winning shots he made. Coach Frank Vogel, never one to withhold praise, seemed to like everything.

“To go from being a rookie to what he was able to do last year was a huge step,” Vogel said. “We think he's capable of taking another huge step on both sides of the ball.”

So does, George, naturally. If a place on the All-Star team is an “of course” plan in his mind, the sky could be the limit. Or is it the moon?

“I think it's my year to play my game,” he said.

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