Before the season had even started for the Indiana Pacers, and long before the bad news came out about Danny Granger’s knee costing him at least three months, the expectations for third-year swingman Paul George were already pretty astronomical.
Considered to be one of the most promising young players in the entire league, George has been presented a perfect opportunity to break out in Granger’s absence. However, early in the season, the reviews have been mixed. George has scored in double digits in each of the team’s first seven games, but he’s also had some atrocious shooting nights to get there.
“It’s frustrating,” George said, “I’m not knocking down open shots. I’m getting good looks, and it’s just frustrating because I know I can shoot the ball well. But it’s something that I’m working on, just letting go and having fun and playing.”
With all the pressure on him to succeed, however, it’s has proven challenging to just kick back and be easy about things. George knows that the best players in the league take on those expectations, and that’s exactly what he is trying to do.
“Of course I want that pressure,” George said. “A lot of guys my age, I don’t t think they would approach the game the way that I would. At the end of the day, I do want to be an All-Star. I do want to be the best player I can be. But most of all, I just want to win. Whether that’s scoring 15 points and 10-12 rebounds or 20-plus points a night, at the end of the day, with the team that I am surrounded by, I just want to win.”
So far, though, wins have been hard to come by for the Pacers, who are only 3-4 through their first seven games. George admitted that his own struggles have played a part in that, but mostly he just intimated that players weren’t clicking with each other yet, nor has the team figured out how to play without Granger.
“We’re just finding the chemistry and right units to click together, and that’s going to come with time,” George said. “A lot of new faces. It’s just a little different. We weren’t expecting Danny to go down and be out as early as he is.”
But again, Granger’s absence is supposed to mean opportunity for George. With the team’s previous top scoring option down, now is the time for the protégé to become the master.
“When it’s all said and done, that’s the role I want to fill,” George said. “I’ve got time to grow into that, and there are a lot of great options around me, so it’s been easy for me to come into my own because I got players that can help me and mentor me.”
It will be easier to remain patient if the team starts figuring out how to win some more games, which, at the end of the day, really is what matters for a team many hoped would be the second-best in the East this year.
“We are set up to be a winning program, and it’s kind of frustrating that it’s not happening, more so than me being a breakout player,’ George said. “But if it takes me being a breakout player, I am going to work and rise to that level.”
The Indiana Pacers can ask nothing more.