Paul George’s temperature has risen this season. After firing Frank Vogel, Larry Bird did what he could to surround George with help. He finally delivered a point guard in Jeff Teague and an athletic four in Thaddeus Young and a backup center in Al Jefferson. There was a lot of pre-season talk about the Pacers being the 1A to the Cleveland Cavaliers but here we are at the end of December and George is whining about officiating which is what frustrated players on losing teams do, particular when living in a glass house.
All George has to do is check the best records in the NBA. The Pacers don’t have excuses and yet they have the 16th best record in the NBA, the 9th best record in the East. The can’t fall back on the lack of talent reason as to why and so the low hanging fruit is blame the officials rather than blame themselves. But blame themselves is what the Pacers should do.
The Pacers are mostly constructed as a perimeter shot making team. They don’t have drivers that attack on a consistent basis. When they drive they pitch it out for the three. They don’t have a steady diet of post-up players. George isn’t a post-up player. He attacks the rim or takes a perimeter shot. He is shooting 38% on shots 3-10 feet. Thaddeus Young is shooting 35% on shots 10-16 feet. Monta Ellis is shooting 26% from that same distance. Rule#1 when you first start playing basketball at the age of 7: You don’t foul jump shooters. Let them take it. They’ll miss eventually.
The Pacers have an offensive rating that is abysmal, 104.9. 20 teams have better offensive ratings. The Pacers rank 20th in fast break points, a number that is worse than it appears because they are 7th in the league in steals but they are not getting easy baskets. Defense is not being turned into offense quickly enough for a team that Larry Bird wanted to play faster. They are an average shot making team and their opponent scores more than they do. They are better at keeping teams from scoring than they are at scoring themselves. They don’t take a lot of threes, only 22 a game, which is near the bottom of the league. You can’t quicken the pace if you don’t have a volume three point attack. 35.4% from three is nothing special. The Pacers are near the bottom of the league in offensive rebounds. That’s is how you get to the line. Fight for the missed shot in traffic and get fouled.
Paul George actually went to the no one likes us card because we are a small market team. Funny, he wasn’t saying that a few years ago when he had physical David West in the paint butchering people on defense and the refs never calling it.
This is the part of basketball that is never acknowledged. Refs are human beings too who operate from the same psychology as the rest of us. Reputations are seared in the brain. It becomes historical information from which to draw from subconsciously. So last night, in the game against the Bulls, Jimmy Butler, who has a reputation as a tough, physical player, was allowed to play exactly that way. There was a play with less than two minutes left when Paul George was trying to make a play to tie the game and he dribbled on the wing. The spacing was bad between George and Aaron Brooks. Brooks was too close to George. Butler noticed the spacing issue and dove into the dribble. George had no room to maneuver, to pull the ball back, because Aaron Brooks was not giving George space, he was crowding him. Butler dove on the ball, stole it from George, called timeout. The game was basically over as the Bulls extended their lead with foul shots.
“Maybe the league has teams they like so they can give them the benefit of the doubt. We’re the little brother of the league. We’re definitely the little brother of the league.”
It’s absurd to think there is a conspiracy against the Pacers when you don’t need a conspiracy against the Pacers. They aren’t that good to need a conspiracy to thwart. They lose on their own without any help from anyone. Their bench is mediocre. Their shooting guards average 19.2 points and are at the bottom of the league in production. Their power forwards are worse. Only 14.8 points per game. As a team, they are incomplete. That is why the Pacers are losing. The refs could swallow their whistles and they would only be an eighth seed.
George is frustrated and it makes all the sense in the world. He hates losing. He sees LeBron James with a stranglehold on the conference. When is it going to be his turn? But blaming the refs for downgrading the Pacers in a popularity contest is not a good look. George is a great player. As a leader he needs accountability, not pointing fingers, and accusing professionals of being lazy on the job.
photo via llananba