Paul George on Lance Stephenson: ‘He’s got to learn to control himself’

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Another Pacers loss to the Cavaliers, another example of Paul George publicly calling attention to his teammates’ flaws.

First, George’s dismay was directed at C.J. Miles for taking the final shot – rather than passing to George – in the Game 1 defeat. Now, Lance Stephenson and Indiana’s bigs come under George’s microscope after Game 2.

Stephenson guarded Kevin Love in the third quarter, a matchup Stephenson couldn’t handle. He thrice fouled Love, reacting once by pushing Love after the whistle and another time by slamming the ball:

That didn’t sit well with George:

George:

He’s got to learn to control himself. He’s got to learn to just be in the moment. Lance is, in our locker room, is looked upon as a leader, one of our leaders. So, his body language has to improve, just for the team. We all know that Lance is an emotional guy. And a lot of it is his heart and his competitiveness that that emotion comes out on. But he’s got to channel that and put it towards making effort plays on the court and doing whatever he needs for us to succeed.

George’s point isn’t altogether incorrect, and I have no problem with players openly discussing problems.

But George ought to look in the mirror first.

Watch him after Miles’ miss to end Game 1:

I’m also unconvinced Stephenson is such a leader in the locker room. Lavoy Allen is the only other Pacer who was in Indiana during Stephenson’s previous stint there. I bet most of Stephenson’s teammates see him as a role-playing journeyman, not someone who played a central role in the franchise’s best teams in a decade.

George is unquestionably the team’s leader. When he looks upset about Miles shooting, that matters – especially when George says exactly that, even if he walks it back.

Yet, George’s teammates have mostly answered the call when Cleveland double-teams him. That still hasn’t spared them from further scrutiny.

George:

I just thought in that third quarter, they double-teamed. They trapped. And we should have did a better job of, once we got it out in the pick-and-rolls, our bigs got to make plays at that point. And we didn’t.

I’m looking for them. I’m looking for them, to try to pass out of those traps and take advantage of the three-on-twos or the four-on-threes. That’s really what it comes down to. On all of those pick-and-rolls, I’m looking for them, because that’s how you play the game. You’ve got to burn them up if they send two to the ball, getting that ball out of that trap. And we’ve got to rely on them to make plays. It’s the only way that it’s going to free me up on these pick-and-rolls, because they’re not going to want to get burned by that.

It’s very obvious that they want the ball out of my hands, and they’re going to force other guys to beat them.

Indiana’s bigs didn’t always handle those possessions perfectly, especially in the third quarter. They can do better.

But George’s complaints are misplaced.

His floormates are shooting 50%, including 36% on 3-pointers – creating an effective field-goal percentage (54%) that would have ranked fourth in the league among teams in the regular season. They’re taking fine advantage of all the attention George draws.

The Pacers’ problem is defensive. They just can’t stop Cleveland (admittedly, no easy task).

In the end, how George feels matters far more than whether he’s right. He’s on track to become a restricted free agent in 2018, and he has dropped several hints about his dissatisfaction in Indiana. Falling behind 2-0 to the Cavs surely isn’t helping. I don’t know whether George is setting the stage for his eventual exit, but it sure feels like it.