When Paul George snapped his leg in the summer of 2014 exhibition game, we spent a few minutes wondering if the Pacers wing would ever walk again. Perhaps it was the grisly way his leg buckled on the stanchion, but we overreacted and so did most people watching. All our collective hearts sank because it seemed to mean the end of the career for one of the most promising stars in the NBA. None of that concern was alleviated when George returned for a handful of games to end the 2014-15 NBA season a husk of his former all-star self, or when he sat out USA Basketball tryouts. Most wrote off the Pacers because Paul just wasn’t going to be the top-10 player he looked like he was about to become before breaking his leg.
Except, we were all so wrong. Against the Wizards on Friday night, George dropped a season-high 40 points on a ridiculous 14-of-19 from the field and 7-of-8 from beyond the arc. With C.J. Miles starting at power forward, George doesn’t need to bang opposing fours as much, and he’s back to that same gazelle stride, smooth pull-up, and dizzying quickness that sneaks up on you because it looks so effortless. He’s also averaging over 25 points a night, shooting a career high from the field and from beyond the arc and the Pacers have started to find their groove in the last two weeks while shooting up the Eastern Conference standings.
John Wall thinks George is a better shooter, too, but said after Friday night’s game that he doesn’t attack the basket as well.
“He’s not really the same Paul George attacking-the-basket wise,” Wall told the Washington Post. “But he’s definitely a better shooter than the way he was before he had his injury.”
While Wall’s back-handed compliment was interesting, the post-game quote that stuck out the most came from Paul’s coach.
“It’s tough to quantify in words,” Pacers Coach Frank Vogel said. “I mean, he just does so much. He’s capable of going for 40, carrying the offensive load and being the best defensive player on either team. He’s a special player, and the best two-way player in the game. We’re a different team with him out there.”
Implicit in that statement is the notion George is the best all-around player in the world. The NBA is the best league on the planet and if he’s the best two-way player in the NBA, he’s the best two-way player in the world. Basketball is played on both sides of the court, and “best two-way player” is just an empirical — though more verbose — way of stating it.