Now that the NBA All-Star 2013 starting lineups have been announced , the real debate begins to find who will join those 10 in Houston. In the nearly half season we’ve watched and written about so far, a number a quality candidates has separated themselves in each conference. Someone deserving will be left out, but before the All-Star reserves are announced on Jan. 24 and we break down who got snubbed, we wanted to open the forum to see who needs to be in Houston and why. Today, it’s an Eastern Conference showdown between a guard and a forward each from the Central.
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PAUL GEORGE, INDIANA
Paul George is a monster. Paul George is a beast. Paul George has single-handedly saved the Indiana Pacers’ season because of his tremendous leap and newfound confidence. Paul George has been given the reigns to the Pacers this season because of Danny Granger’s lingering injuries and Roy Hibbert’s ineffectiveness. I knew George was good. I knew he had potential, but potential is such a tender word.
In my dictionary, potential means you’re on the brink of something epic yet doubt still remains. For George, I knew he was a great leaper and solid defender coming out of Fresno State. I’ve heard stories of how his high school coach urged him to be more aggressive. He was more an altruistic player, though: selfless. He wanted his teammates to thrive. Unlike the innumerable ballhogs in the world, he never thought scoring should have been a first priority. Other things like rebounding, distributing, playing defense were embedded in his mind and game. Just like high school and college, George deferred and did things to help his team win. Now this season, he was given the green light a la John Legend and the ball was placed in his hands. This was the year to prove why he was coined as arguably the best wing player to come out the 2010 draft. He has surpassed expectations and has given me a reason as to why he should be in this year’s festivities.
After an abysmal start, many questioned whether the Pacers had the juice and hunger to compete without leading scorer in Granger. They traded Darren Collison and inserted George Hill as their front man to handle the rock. They entrusted their franchise in a role-player. They threw stacks of money to Hibbert last offseason to keep him from going to Portland. After an incredible year last season, Hibbert’s play deteriorated. His numbers nosedived from 13 points and nine boards per game to nine points and eight rebounds. Wait, the 7-footer’s field goal percentage even dipped from 49.7 percent to 41 percent. Lance Stephenson – who I love and is a New York City legend – was an unproven commodity. A second-round pick who was yanked in and out of the rotation prior to this season was an unknown.
So Indiana coach Frank Vogel opted to give his third year man Paul George the go ahead. I doubt he regrets ever making that decision. Why? George has exuded his poignant all-around game on both ends of the court. He’s averaging close to 17 points, eight rebounds, and four assists a game. He’s doing it all, folks. While posing as the Pacers new scoring threat, he still hasn’t forgotten about his bread and butter – his defense. He’s still guarding the opposing team’s best player and grabbing closing to two steals (1.7) and registering almost a block per game (0.7).
By sliding George back to his primary position at small forward, Vogel has helped unleash the player’s natural game. Since coming to the league, George had to play out of position and adjust his game at shooting guard to accommodate his All-Star teammate in Granger. Granted, his game has improved since his rookie year, his points jumping from 7.8 to 12.1 to 16.9 per game. Because he was playing with Granger, David West and Hibbert who all demanded the ball, George opted to take the backseat and took only 9.7 shots a game last season. This year, he’s taking 15 shots a game. While becoming a daunting scoring threat, he’s still doing what he loves and hasn’t sacrificed his rebounding and dishing the ball, with eight rebounds and four dimes a game. More importantly, Indiana has regained their composure and are third in the Eastern Conference as of today at 24-16.
Let’s let George be part of All-Star Weekend. I’m not talking about the Dunk Contest again. I’m talking about the big game where the stars align and have the hardwood serve as their playground. I’m talking about the All-Star Game in Houston.
– Carl Lamarre , on Twitter at @TheRealCL24