CLEVELAND -- Since the Indiana Pacers embarked on their latest rebuilding process, small forward Paul George has been the centerpiece of the franchise, consistently raising his level of play to the point where he is considered a top player in the league not just by his fans, but also, his fellow competitors.
Gaining the ultimate form of respect from his peers, George battled back from a debilitating broken leg in the summer of 2014 while playing with Team USA Basketball, and over the last two years, reemerged as the leader of the Pacers, who drew the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs.
“It’ll be great,” Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving said. “Anytime you have a great talent like in a playoff series, are able to game-plan, know how talented he is and know he’s going to come out and lead his team, it’s always good for the competition of the series.
“He’s a great talent. I don’t really know him that well on a personal level, but he’s a great player.”
Cleveland Cavaliers take on Indiana Pacers in Game 2 of opening round of 2017 NBA Playoffs
Over his seven-year NBA career, George has averaged 18.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.7 steals per game, but in his last three full seasons, particularly the last two years, he has averaged better than 21.5 points per game.
In postseason play, George has averaged 18.8 points, 7.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.7 steals in 38.5 minutes over 63 playoffs games.
“He’s a tall, wiry guy that can seemingly do everything out there on the floor,” Cavaliers power forward Kevin Love said. “You saw what he did after the All-Star Break. He was one of the top players in the league, especially from that small forward position.
“He’s so tough to guard. It doesn’t matter if he’s shooting turnaround J’s, coming off pick-and-rolls, transition threes, getting to the basket. He just gives you a little bit of everything while playing the other end just as hard and just as well.”
Cavaliers small forward LeBron James is no stranger to competition, and is not afraid to hand out a compliment to an opponent when credit is due, and George is no different.
A competitor of George’s throughout the regular season and several playoff series, James has watched the Palmdale, California native and former Fresno State standout grow into one of the best players in the league.
“Everything he’s able to accomplish, I’m always proud of him,” James said. “I’m proud of the success and just the leader that he’s become.”