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Paul George End-of-Season Q&A

by Mark Montieth | askmontieth@gmail.com

June 11, 2013, 1:15 PM

Editor's Note: Have a Pacers-related question for Mark? Want to be featured in his mailbag column? Send your questions to Mark on twitter at @MarkMontieth or by email at askmontieth@gmail.com.

Editor's Note: Pacers forward Paul George enjoyed a breakout season, making his first All-Star team, winning the league's Most Improved Player Award, and earning selection to the All-Defensive and All-NBA teams. For an in-depth review of George's season, read Pacers.com's 2013 Player Review.

Below is a recent Q&A with George and Pacers.com's Mark Montieth:

Q. You had a great season, playing in the All-Star game and winning the Most Improved Player award. The Pacers had the third-best record in the Eastern Conference, and reached the Eastern Conference finals despite losing your leading scorer from the past five seasons, Danny Granger. How do you reflect on the season just completed?

A. A lot of us had to step into new roles this year, not having Danny around. It shocked a lot of us, but we handled it well. We did a heckuva job this year. We battled against the odds and the city understood how hard we fought this year. They have something to cheer about now. We have a locker room full of great guys. For the young kids and the little ones in the community, they have role models to look up to.

Myself, it just makes me comfortable. I'm comfortable in this league, and I'm confident in this league. This is just the beginning. The great thing is, we're a young team. We're past the rebuilding stage. At the rate we're going, we should be thinking about championships in the future.

Q. What do you see for your future in the NBA?

A. I want to get Defensive Player of the Year award. And, I think I can play at an MVP level. That's very much in my reach. For me, it's just being able to be consistent and having that aggressive mindset. But I feel I can lead a team to a championship and be the league's MVP.

Q. The Pacers played Miami evenly through the first six games of the conference finals, but lost badly in Game 7, 99-76. What happened in that game?

A. A lot of it was just us not taking care of the basketball. It was the first time for a lot of us to be in this situation, being in a Game 7. We didn't know what to expect. They really ramped up the pressure. We should have taken a deep breath and remembered it was a basketball game and we could just do what we had been doing all year long. Just take care of the ball.

Q. You said before Game 7 that you thought it was a chance for the Pacers to show everybody what you had as a team. How disappointing was it to finish the season the way you did?

A. It's real disappointing. But at the same time I can really be proud of what we've done. There's a lot of things we can take away from this and really be happy about. For us to get where we're at despite not having (Danny Granger) and taking the defending champions to a Game 7 … it sucks not to make it an interesting game, but we did a heck of a job this year.

Q. What did you learn from the series with Miami?

A. You have to improvise. You get to a Game 7, everybody knows what the other team is going to do, so you have to improvise. You have to counter what they're doing to you. That's where we failed, but we're a young team and we're a team that plans on staying together awhile, so we'll grow together.

Q. Were you stunned by how Game 7 turned out, since you had played them well throughout the series?

A. Not really. They were playing at home, and they came out and played a great game. They really brought the pressure. They double-teamed constantly and got us out of our comfort zone. It was just turnovers. It was us not taking care of the ball.

Q. In the third quarter of Game 2 of the playoff series with Miami, you beat LeBron James to the basket for a great dunk. He came back and hit a three-point shot at the buzzer, and then offered his hand to you. What did that mean to you, and what did he say?

A. That was a moment for me that I’ll always remember. He said, 'I got you back, young fella.' I've got the utmost respect for LeBron; I look up to LeBron. He's a phenomenal player. I was surprised that he would do it just because it was the Eastern Conference finals, but we both have respect for each other. It was a cool moment for myself.

Q. Last year, you said you learned what you needed to work on from the Pacers' playoff series with Miami. Was that also true this year?

A. This is the series that always preps me for the next season. This is definitely a series I can reflect on and see things to get better at – and try to win Most Improved again (laughing). LeBron makes me better every summer.

Q. What do you plan to work on this summer to become a better player?

A. Just continue to keep working. Continue to keep working on my post game, my ballhandling, and get up a lot of shots. A lot of shots. I need to be comfortable shooting anywhere on the floor. I'll work on my conditioning more, too. I wasn't prepared to step into this role, as the main guy. I didn't expect to be the main guy. Now I know how it takes and how I need to train to get to that level. So this summer will be a lot of conditioning stuff.

Q. Danny Granger is expected to return to the team next season, after missing all but five games this past season. He was the leading scorer for five consecutive seasons before he was injured. If he can return healthy (after having knee surgery in March) how will that affect you?

A. I love it. Danny was a top 20 guy, a top 15 scorer. I learned so much playing with Danny, so I'm excited. I'm excited to play with Danny. We can feed off each other. I'm confident we can play together. We can attack the same away Miami attacked, with two dominant wings. That's real scary for this league.

Q. Danny had been the team captain. What role do you see for yourself as far as leadership next season?

A. This time around, I want to be Coach's guy. And by that, I mean his No. 1 go-to. Make sure I'm his floor general, as well as David (West), Roy (Hibbert) and George (Hill). I want to make sure that when coach needs me down in those final seconds, or possessions or whenever it is, I'm on top of my game and can be able to carry out Coach's full plan.

Q. You showed an enhanced interest in fashion during the Eastern Conference finals. What image do you like portray with your fashion?

A. Just for a little personality. I like wearing colors. I'm a colors guy. I'm not the typical black, white, gray kind of guy.

Q. Your global profile was raised during the playoffs. Do you hope to gain endorsements this summer?

A. I hope I've made it easy to be endorsed by the way I played this postseason. I don't have anything yet. I'm not concerned about companies right now. I know when I get to where I want to get, it will be that much easier.

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