Back in November, when the NBA world was marveling at his comeback, Paul George was scoring 29.5 points a game with a usage rate of 33.1 percent — he was the Pacers’ offense.
In January, those numbers were down to 21.4 points and 29.8 usage rate, and on Monday he had just 11 points (on 15 shots), but he had a team-high eight assists. As defenses have focused more on stopping George from scoring, his role in the offense has shifted to facilitator and occasional decoy.
He admitted after the game his role has changed, but how comfortable is he with it? Here is what George said, via Candace Buckner of the Indy Star.
“Before it was, I had the confidence just being out there. I knew what I could do and I was comfortable in doing that. Then it was like slowly ‘you can’t do this, you can’t do that, too much of this, too much of that,’ so I had to change it up a little bit. Kind of opened it up for our other guys to be aggressive and have opportunities. So I’m not sure what to call it….
“It’s changed, it’s definitely changed (since the) start of the year,” George said. “Just kinda felt like I had the confidence and coach was giving me the confidence with the green light. I’m still confident, guys are still making the right plays. Just seems like a transition a little bit.”
George has come back and resumed his place near the top of the NBA pecking order, which considering his leg injury and where he came from is incredibly impressive.
But if the Pacers are going to take the next step it will be about George trusting and helping the other talent on the team find their places, too. It’s what LeBron James has learned to do, it’s what Jordan and Kobe Bryant eventually learned to do, it’s what Tim Duncan seemed to instinctively knew how to do. Saying he needs to “make the players around him better” is a cliche, but it’s accurate, too.