The Indiana Pacers used their 10th overall pick in 2010 on a mysterious 6’9” shooting a guard from Fresno. I say “mysterious” because nobody in the league could agree on what kind of player the kid would become.
Some NBA executives saw him as a defensive minded shooting guard, while others saw him as an athletic small forward. So when the Pacers selected him 10th overall in the draft that year, it was considered a HUGE gamble. A gamble that most other NBA teams wanted no part of. Six years later, though, it’s pretty safe to assume that Indiana’s “gamble” has paid off. Big time.
At the time George was drafted, Danny Granger was recognized as the face of the franchise, and leader in the locker room. Because of the uncertainty regarding PG’s position, he was often not the main focus in the rotation.
Just a few years later, however, things would begin to change. Head coach Frank Vogel (who was still pretty new to the head coaching position at the time) saw the potential Paul George had. PG became the starting shooting guard, playing alongside Danny Granger at the three, and George Hill at the point. It was a good lineup that made Indiana quite a competitive bunch.
Then, Granger fell due to troublesome knee problems in the 2012-2013 season, and that’s when the story of Paul George really began. It was in that season where PG showed us that he was more than an average rotation player. It was in that same season where George took off and never looked back. His scoring average was proof to that, as it jumped from a mediocre 12.1 points a game, to a powerful 17.4 points per game. His assists also went up from 2 to over 4. It did not stop there, either.
George continued his rampage the following season, with his starting spot at small forward no longer a question. He scored 21.7 points per game that season. Being the unquestioned leader, and go-to closer, he really began to turn some heads. Even the Pacers were doing well, being at the top of the Eastern Conference that year. It was what seemed like a dream season for George.
That’s when the summer of 2014 rolled around, and everybody knows what happened then. Sadly, Paul’s upswing came to a screeching halt. He became a broken star who dragged his once competitive team into the gutter with him. His leg split apart in a gruesome injury while playing USA basketball. Many critics were ready to say goodbye to George and his NBA career that very day. I'm sure even the broken and hurt George was ready to call it quits.
It would ultimately be almost a full season before anyone saw George on the court again. And while the Pacers season was lost in a blizzard of disappointment and agony, the Indiana superstar remained the pillar of hope that one day the Pacers might rise again…..with him leading the way.
And, of course, he did just that. Not only did he manage to send a message that year by showing he still had something left, he also gave the Pacers some motivation to keep moving forward. He finished out the last couple games of the 2015 season in a powerful fashion, and he’d begin the following season much the same way.
It wasn’t long before PG became the player we all knew he could become. It wasn’t long before he led the Indiana Pacers to the playoff gates. And it was not long before he started showing us that he was even BETTER than he had been before he broke his leg that tragic summer.
Paul George is back, and he is no doubt ready to continue his walk towards superstardom. His story alone tells us the kind of man and the kind of player he is. He is a guy who never gives in, never backs down, and always gets right back up. But the best part about this whole thing? It’s not over yet. Not even close.