Pacers Prepping for PG and Thunder

March 13, 2019 - After practice on Wednesday, the team talked about squaring off with former Pacer Paul George, whose Thunder have become one of the top teams in the Western Conference.

Postgame 190313

Scroll Video up Scroll Video down Scroll Video left Scroll Video right

Pacers Prepping for PG and Thunder

March 13, 2019 - After practice on Wednesday, the team talked about squaring off with former Pacer Paul George, whose Thunder have become one of the top teams in the Western Conference.
Mar 13, 2019  |  01:18

Change Has Been Good for George, Pacers

by Mark Montieth
Pacers.com Writer
@MarkMontieth

Someone once wrote a song about what a difference a year can make. So you can imagine the changes that occur over two years in the NBA, where transformations are made at warp speed by teams desperately seeking improvement.

The Pacers of two seasons ago, the team led by Paul George, serve as a prime example. Thad Young and Myles Turner are the only players from that team still on the roster, a point that will be made all the more obvious when Oklahoma City drops by Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Thursday.

"It's definitely a complete change," Thad Young said following Wednesday's practice at St. Vincent Center. "We're going from Monta (Ellis) and Rodney Stuckey and C.J. Miles to a completely different unit.

"And Lavoy Allen and Kevin Seraphin and those guys, so it's a definitely a completely different structure …

"Joe Young …

"Completely different …

"Rakeem Christmas …

"Completely different."

Given another minute or two, Young probably could have come up with the other former Pacers from that now-ancient two-year-old roster – Aaron Brooks, Georges Niang, Lance Stephenson and Jeff Teague. The point is that the memory of George's last season as a Pacer is quickly fading in the rear-view mirror, and his return to The Fieldhouse won't bring the same emotions as last season, when bitter fans made clear their feelings on his decision to have his agent request a trade.

PLAYOFF PICTURE: Track the Pacers' Playoff Push »

Time isn't the only factor healing those wounds. The deal that exchanged George for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis is still widely regarded as favorable for the Pacers despite Oladipo's season-ending injury. Besides, George is thriving in OKC, a legitimate league MVP candidate who is playing better than at any other time in his nine-season NBA career. There's not much a betrayed fan can say.

George is clearly thriving in his new environment, to which he recommitted by signing a contract extension over the summer, thus surprising everyone who assumed he would join the LeBron Lakers. Playing alongside Russell Westbrook fits for him, although his stats aren't as dramatically better than in his final season with the Pacers as people might assume. Compare his performance with the Pacers two seasons ago to now and the primary difference is his scoring average. He takes four more shots per game now, a primary reflection of OKC's faster pace of play, which also boosts his other numbers.

Pts FG 3FG FT Reb Ast TO St.
2016-17 23.7 .461 .393 .898 6.6 3.3 2.9 1.6
2018-19 28.2 .440 .388 .839 8.2 4.2 2.7 2.3

Regardless, George is reminding everyone that he's really, really good. Many Pacers fans were frustrated with him two seasons ago for not doing more for a team that finished 42-40 and needed a late-season adrenaline injection from Stephenson to qualify for the playoffs, but his reputation has never been better than now. If some Pacers fans are still harboring grudges, their voices likely are drowned out in George's brain by the fans in OKC and his former teammates and coaches in Indianapolis.

Thaddeus Young

Photo Credit: NBAE/Getty Images

"He'll always be a brother to us, and I'm sure he feels the same way about us," Young said.

McMillan, the Pacers' head coach in George's final season as a Pacer and an assistant for the three seasons prior to that, believes George's progress is largely a matter of a player gaining experience while still at a peak physical level.

"Certainly talented players like Paul, they grow every year," McMillan said. "After five, six, seven years, guys tend to settle in and get more comfortable. That seems to be where he's at.

"You get into a situation where you've seen most things and how teams are defending you. You get to a spot where you're comfortable with what you can give to the group. That's maturity."

The Pacers don't have anyone to match George's productivity this season. That would be the case even if Oladipo were playing. But Oladipo and Sabonis together, long-term, certainly can bring more than George could by himself. Sabonis' analytics regarding player efficiency and win shares alone rival George's. Add Oladipo - the only Pacer to have ever made an All-Star team - to the mix when he's healthy and it becomes a win-win deal for both teams.

Pacers fans who still have the sinking feeling that comes when an ex finds more happiness elsewhere can find solace in that. Oladipo's (temporary) absence aside, the changes have done everyone a lot of good.


Have a question for Mark? Want it to be on Pacers.com? Email him at askmontieth@gmail.com and you could be featured in his next mailbag.

Mark Montieth's book on the formation and groundbreaking seasons of the Pacers, "Reborn: The Pacers and the Return of Pro Basketball to Indianapolis," is available in bookstores throughout Indiana and on Amazon.com.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Indiana Pacers. All opinions expressed by Mark Montieth are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Indiana Pacers, their partners, or sponsors.