George, West Deserving of All-Star Nod
January 19, 2013, 12:26 AM
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Paul George is eager to go, and would be making a list and taking revenge if he's not invited.
David West would just as soon not go, thank you. Besides, he's got an important family matter that week.
Regardless, both Pacers made yet another convincing argument for being selected to play in the NBA All-Star Game in Friday's 105-95 win over Houston, turning in all-star caliber performances that are becoming awfully repetitive in games at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Not boring, just repetitive.
Pacers Stall Rockets, 105-95 »
George finished with 31 points, hitting 7-of-10 three-pointers. Eighteen came in the first quarter when he hit four of his three-pointers and jump-started the 31-18 lead. He added six rebounds and five steals and held Houston's leading scorer James Harden – who averages 26 points and had scored at least 20 in 22 consecutive games – to 17 points on 5-of-19 shooting.
West, who constructed his first career triple-double in last Saturday's win over Charlotte, came close again with 20 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and three blocked shots.
They are the primary reasons the Pacers have hit the halfway point of the season with a 25-16 record despite the absence of Danny Granger and spotty bench play. And they each could make a strong case for going to Houston for the Feb. 17 game.
The Eastern Conference coaches will select the reserves, with the results announced at 7 p.m. next Thursday. They are more likely to recognize George and West than the fans, who voted in the starters. George ranked 10th in the backcourt voting and West wasn't among the top 13 frontcourt vote-getters.
"I think Paul and David are deserving, and I think they'll be on the All-Star team,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel.
Of course a coach is going to say that. Coaches can't vote for their own players, though, so the best the Pacers could do was send e-mails pleading their case to the other Eastern coaches.
George is increasingly impossible to ignore for the havoc he's wreaking at both ends of the court. He leads the Pacers in scoring (17.3), three-point percentage (.384), steals (1.8) and ranks second in rebounding (7.7).
If that isn't enough, his defense should be the clincher. Surely Harden would provide a reference.
"I've never seen a defender like Paul George," Vogel said. “He's dominated. He sniffs out balls. He's like Allen Iverson in the passing lanes. He's got incredible hands. But the thing about Paul George is that he's an incredible ball container. Most of those big-time steals guys are gamblers and don't really play team defense. He's our best team defender.”
George declared his intention of making the All-Star team the day before training camp started, and has backed words with actions. So I asked him after Friday's hit-for-the-cycle performance if he would be surprised not to make the team.
He smiled bashfully and paused.
"Of course I would like to be an all-star …” he said.
Not the question, young man. Do you expect to be an all-star?
"I'm not expecting,” he said. “If it happens, it happens. I 'm not expecting it. It would be an honor to be named an all-star.”
Pressed on the issue, he allowed himself an argument on his own behalf.
"You talk about playing guys on both sides of the floor, I've done that as well as any of the guys in the all-star spots,” he said, accurately. “We're third in the East. We've been playing well. I think I've done it consistently enough to be an All-Star. It'll hurt a little bit (not to make the team), but at the same time I'm more focused on getting wins.”
What if you had a vote? Would you vote for yourself?
“Oh, a hundred times,” he said, laughing.
The only positive in being passed over by the coaches is that it would provide a motivational prod for the remainder of the season.
“Yeah, I guess I'll have to really play at a high level if I'm not,” he said.
Ah, to be 22.
West would be annoyed only if he makes the team. He's played in two All-Star Games already, has been to Houston plenty of times and doesn't have the style of play that blends into an All-Star game anyway. He would be a determined mechanic trying to operate amid half-interested ballet dancers.
I asked West the same question that had gone to George. Do you expect to be an All-Star?
“Me?” he said, genuinely surprised by the question.
“Uh,” he said pausing a moment to collect his thoughts. “No, I haven't really thought about it. I just try to focus on helping this team win and prepare for every single game. I guess the answer would be that it hasn't crossed my mind.
Do you want to be an All-Star? Would you like to go to Houston or would you rather have some time off?
“Honestly speaking?” he asked.
"I'd rather have the time off," he said. "My daughter's birthday is on the 16th, so we'll just stay home.
"I get more of a kick out of continuing to creep up in the standings, knowing that our best days are ahead of us. That's where my bread is buttered in terms of what will give me the most joy and the most fulfillment."
Ah, to be 32.
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