This isn’t going to get as much attention as Paul George switching to No.13, but apparently they are not done yet playing musical numbers in Indiana.
Solomon Hill, who played as No. 9 last season, is switching to No. 44, reports Scott Agness of Vigilant Sports. He’s switching to the same number he wore in college at Arizona.
Hill is going to get a lot more run (and may start) in the wake of George’s injury. Hill played sparingly in 28 games as a rookie for the Pacers last season, showing flashes of progress but generally looking like a rookie trying to adjust to the NBA. This year he gets thrown into the fire.
According to Basketball-Reference.com there has been a long list of guys who have worn No. 44: Bobby Edmonds (1968), Ron Perry (1969), Tom Thacker (1970-1971), Mike Flynn (1976-1978), Tony Zeno (1980), Dick Miller (1981), John Duren (1983), Dwayne McClain (1986), Kyle Macy (1987), Kenny Williams (1991-1994), Austin Croshere (1998-2006), Courtney Sims (2008), Solomon Jones (2010-2011), and Kyrylo Fesenko (2012).
It’s a marketing thing.
Paul George is a rising star in the basketball world trying to crossover into the world where even casual sports fans — and even some non-sports fans — know who he is. A catchy nickname like PG-13 helps with that. (Plus it was a nice touch he bought up all his old jerseys on the market and donated them to his high school.)
George explained the move speaking to Vigilant Sports, noting that this was not easy.
“I was just superstitious about changing my number,” he said. “Being with 24 for as long as I can remember. It’s always been one of my favorite numbers, and being a big Kobe [Bryant] fan growing up had a little bit to do with it. I was superstitious about it….
“And the whole thing behind PG-13 is just coming into my own. I feel like I’m at that stage where I’m ready to embrace everything that comes with being one of the young stars in this league. Everyone knows PG-13 is related to television, so the whole thing is being able to enjoy the show and being fun to watch.”
Of course, people know who he is now for another reason — the horrific leg break he suffered in the USA Basketball showcase in Las Vegas a few weeks back. One that will almost certainly keep him out all of next season.
But that can be part of the story long-term now — another hurdle he had to overcome. George was not highly recruited out of high school, and even coming out of college to the NBA he was taken behind Wesley Johnson, Evan Turner, and Al-Farouq Aminu among others. His basketball career has been about being underestimated, working hard and overcoming the odds. This is just another chapter in that.
It could make one of those feel good, cheesy, Disney sports movies… probably rated PG-13.
Paul George has an entire NBA career based around being overlooked, counted out, then working hard and blowing away expectations.
Listening to him at his press conference in Indiana Friday, the first time he spoke to the media since his horrific injury in the Team USA Showcase in Las Vegas, that’s his motivation again. And I wouldn’t bet against him.
My PBT Extra tag-team partner Jenna Corrado brings you the update.
Paul George is a guy that worked too hard to get here to just roll over. He was overlooked coming out of high school in Palmdale, undervalued coming out of college at Fresno State, and now he’s an All-Star NBA player. He got there with some natural gifts and an impressive work ethic to hone those skills every offseason, then to play hard every night.
That’s not the kind of guy to let an injury stop him.
George met with the media in Indianapolis for the first time since his horrific injury breaking his tibia and fibula in a USA Basketball exhibition game in Las Vegas. All he talked about was coming back. Here are some highlights, via Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports and Michael Lee of the Washington Post.
USA Basketball came under a lot of criticism in the wake of the injury — from where the stanchions were placed to the demands on players time — but George was having none of it.
Meaning he wants to be on Team USA in 2016 when the plane heads to Rio for the Olympics.
As for talking about the injury itself:
I’d be shocked if we saw George back on the court next season. Aside the basic healing timeline, even if he pushed to get back for the end of the season this is not going to be a Pacers’ season he wants to rejoin. They are in for a tough year.
But when he comes back in the fall of 2015, watch out.
NBA players — and NFL, NHL, and Barclays Premier League players as well — know on some level that every time they step on the court or field they risk a catastrophic injury. Intellectually they get that. They also block it out of their minds — you can’t play all out if in the back of your mind there are concerns about a knee or whatever.
A fluke injury like Paul George’s happening right in front of the players can bring those fears to the front of the mind.
Golden State’s Stephen Curry — who is expected to be a starter for Team USA — has battled his share of injuries over the years and admitted George’s injury gave him pause, speaking with ESPN.
“Reacting to Paul’s injury is natural,” Curry said. “I think just talking to my family and guys in the Warrior front office, just kind of seeing where everybody was, but at the end of the day it’s a great honor to wear this jersey and to have these experiences and I’m going to take advantage of it.”
“Everyone’s all in,” (USA coach Mike) Krzyzewski said. “They wouldn’t be here if they weren’t all in. And they’ve been all-in. These guys love playing for the United States and they understand that we have a one month commitment now. And actually a month from today, if things went well, we would be playing for a gold medal in Madrid.”
Despite the loss of George and Kevin Durant — not to mention guys such as Kevin Love, Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge not taking part this summer — Team USA has the talent to get to that gold medal game. The USA lucked out with the draw and got a soft group and, once it enters elimination play, a soft side of the bracket if they win the division. The USA will likely face Spain in that gold medal game, and that presents some real challenges, but the USA should get there.
If more guys pulled out in the wake of the George injury, maybe that equation changes. But those guys all know the risk every time they step on the court anywhere.