by Tzvi Twersky | @ttwersky
When speaking with Paul George, no matter if heís coming off of a 16-point, 17-rebound effort in a win or a 11-point, 3-rebound clunker in a loss, thereís always one constant: heís quick to dismiss his own accomplishments.
Thatís why it was so surprising when, while on the phone with SLAM late last week, George vigorously patted his own back.
ďI think I might be the best in the League, hands down,Ē the Indiana Pacers starting small forward surprisingly said.
ÖAnd then he finished the thought and all was right in the world again.
ď[The] best Call of Duty player in the NBA has gotta be me.Ē
All jokes aside, George, 22, is widely regarded as one of the most promising young players in the NBA. Of course, with Danny Granger sidelined for at least three months with a knee injury, the Pacers are going to need George to cash in on his vast array of talents sooner than later.
While on the road last week, George called SLAM and discussed accelerated expectations and Grangerís absence, Call of Duty and Nate Robinson, and LeBron James and China.
SLAM: I saw you tweeting before the season started about FIFA and NBA 2K. Are you a big video game head?
Paul George: Man, Iím a huge videogame head. Thatís how I spend, you know, pretty much all my off time.
SLAM: What kind of games did you grow up playing?
PG: Umm, I was really on Madden when I was young. I was on like the Madden, Halo, 2K. You know that was the game I was really into when I was younger.
SLAM: Okay. And that was on Xbox?
PG: Yeah. Xbox and the 360, man. I started out PlayStation, but then I gradually moved to Xbox.
SLAM: And we were just talking about the new COD: Black Ops II coming out. Are you a big fan of the Call of Duty series?
PG: Iím huge on Call of Duty, man. I think Iím, I think I might be the best in the League, hands down. Best Call of Duty player in the NBA has gotta be me.
SLAM: You think so?
PG: Yeah. By far, by far.
SLAM: I heard Nate Robinsonís pretty nice on there.
PG: Nah, man. I mean, Iíll screenshot after I play a game, Iíll screenshot my work of art. I donít think a lot of cats can compete with that.
SLAM: You play with a lot of your teammates?
PG: Yeah. Well a couple of years ago me, BRush (Brandon Rush), and Danny [Granger] used to play almost after every practice. Weíd team up and play against everybody online or whatever. And we would win, we would win.
SLAM: You playing with any of your current teammates too?
PG: I play with Gerald Green. We still play the zombies. Thatís something we still get after.
SLAM: You should be careful, man. While Dannyís out, aside from rehabbing, heís gonna have a lot of time on his hands to get his game up.
PG: I encourage that (laughs). Dannyís gotta get a little better man. He could tell you that he canít mess with me.
SLAM: Itís just a good way for teammates to bond right?
PG: Yeah, it isóespecially how good the gameplay of Call of Duty is. You know, I mean, it was serious. I remember when they came out with Modern Warfare 2. I remember it like it was yesterday: we all went to GameStop at the mall, and we waited in the long lines, and we were excited to get that game.
SLAM: Brad Beal was telling me he kind of had to pull himself away from the last game because he was getting so addicted. You ever feel that way like, ďYo, Iím wasting too much time on this?Ē
PG: Ahh, it does. I mean it kind of does. At some point you just get caught up in the game so much to where the time is flying, and especially if youíre playing good. If you going on a streak where you doing numbers then it gets that much more addicting.
SLAM: If you could play against any NBA player, who would you want to play against?
PG: I donít know. I mean, it would have to be whoeveróyou said Nate Robinson is pretty good, it would probably be Nate then. I gotta go against the best.
SLAM: Yeah, I hear heís the truth.
PG: OK, yeah. I gotta go against him then. See what heís talking about.
SLAM: SoÖthe Pacers are struggling a little bit so far this season. What do you think has to change just to turn it around?
PG: We really just gotta get comfortable with one another. I think our chemistry is starting to grow. You know, we could easily be 4-1; thereís been a couple plays that we just messed up on. But itís still early in the season; I donít think weíre in panic mode yet. We got time to still grow.
Weív got a lot of new guys, and we werenít prepared of course for Danny to go out and not be with us for the year. At the same time, we gotta work just little stuff. We havenít really seen zone, and thatís what teams are starting to play against us, thatís what theyíre starting to do. Just with time weíll gradually start getting better with it.
SLAM: With Danny out, how does that change what youíre trying to do personally?
PG: (Pauses) It just makes me have to be a little more aggressive. He attracted so much [attention] for us as far as getting to the line, creating and knocking down shots, being a go-to. So, just everybody has to be accountable on being more aggressive and kind of pick up the load a little bit more.
SLAM: Right, right. People want you to all of a sudden be this big scorer, but do you feel like thatís just not your aggressive nature?
PG: I just feel like Iím a player. I feel like Iíve always been a person that just let the game come to me and the way that weíre setup is we get into plays, we run action, and I try to find the best available play thatís gonna happen. A lot of stuff comes from the defensive end too. I work so hard on the defensive end that sometimes Iím gassed on the offensive end, or Iím not looking to score because I exerted so much energy on the defensive end.
SLAM: Yeah. Youíre playing 40 minutes a night, man. You getting tired at all?
PG: Not really. You know what I mean, not really. Iím still young so I think I still got them young legs.
SLAM: I saw that you were with LeBron in china this summer. What did you take away with you from that experience?
PG: I had a lot of time to spend with Bron while we was up there. We didnít really talk about basketball; It was kind of just a bond of being competitors and you know having time to spend together. It was more so just that, but heís somebody that I can idolize my game after. We kind of do the same things as far as being able to handle the ball and create, rebound and defend, all that type of stuff. Heís somebody that I definitely watch play.
SLAM: Do yíall stay in touch at all?
PG: Not really. More of just an off-season thing.
SLAM: Do you think itís gonna be like a little weird if you run into him in the Playoffs now? Just that now you kind of know each other nowÖ
PG: Nah, it wonít be weird. At the end of the day we know what our job is, and our job is to compete and play basketball. I donít know how but athletes, we get the knocked for being friends in the NBA like itís not good. But itís gonna happen. But, we all know at the end of the day, we play basketball and weíre basketball players.