Paul George’s temperature has risen to the point of boiling. Now it is just about to burst. George told the Pacers he intends to fully pursue free agency. His choice is the Lakers. Duh. This is a secret everyone knew about because George didn’t hide it from his friends who then told told their friends and so here we are, another small market team about to be gutted by their All-Star talent who is frustrated.
The Pacers aren’t shocked. This day was coming. For all the mistakes Larry Bird made- trading Kawhi Leonard comes to mind- he attempted to surround George with help. He 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 at the end of December George was whining about officiating which is what frustrated players on losing teams do.
The Pacers were mostly constructed in 2016-17 to be an 8th seed. There wasn’t a second creator/scorer/star. Absent were drivers that attacked on a consistent basis. When they did drive they pitched it out rather then finish through contact. The Pacers had pathetic free throw attempt numbers. They didn’t have a steady diet of post-up play. George isn’t a post-up player. He attacks the rim or takes a perimeter shot.
The Pacers had an average offensive rating which made sense. They were mediocre at shot making. They ranked 26th in fast break points, a number that is worse than it appears because they were 9th in the league in steals but they were not getting easy baskets. Defense was not being turned into offense quickly enough for a team that Larry Bird wanted to play faster. But let’s be real. Who are the Pacers finishers?
George has been to the Eastern Conference Finals so he knows what a team has to have. Toughness. Grit. Skill.
Speaking of toughness, the Pacers were 26th in rebounding and 23rd in offensive rebounding. No one was fighting for boards in traffic and getting fouled. To make matters worse, or more glaring, they fought modernity. They didn’t take a lot of threes, only 23 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.
How frustrated was Paul George? He 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.
There was a game against the Bulls. Jimmy Butler, who has a reputation as a tough, physical player, was allowed to play exactly that way. With less than two minutes left 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 was a conspiracy against the Pacers when you don’t need a conspiracy against the Pacers. They weren’t that good to need a conspiracy to thwart. They lost on their own without any help from anyone. Their bench was mediocre. Their shooting guards averaged 19.1 points and were at the bottom of the league in production. Their power forwards were worse. Only 14.9 points per game. As a team, they were incomplete.
When you have had a complete team this two steps forward, one step back makes you crazy. It makes you give in. Surrender.
Paul George is General Lee at Appomattox. He’s giving up.
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?
What he told the Pacers is never. It’s never going to be his turn. Not in Indiana anyway.
photo via llananba