Why It’s Far Too Early For Paul George To Decide That He’s Not ‘Cut Out’ For Power Forward

Less than a full week of training camp and one exhibition game into the 2015-16 season, Paul George has his mind made up on his highly controversial switch from the wing to the post. Well, at least that’s what comments courtesy of the Indiana Pacers superstar following his team’s first preseason action seem to make abundantly clear.

George scored 18 points (7-15 FGs), grabbed five rebounds, dished two assists, and committed five turnovers in 24 minutes of play during the Indiana Pacers’ 110-105 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday night. After the game, he barely minced words when describing current and future frustrations gleaned from starting at power forward.

Here’s Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star.

“I don’t know if I’m cut out for a four spot,” George said after the Pacers’ 110-105 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, a game in which he started matched up against 6-foot-11 All-Star Anthony Davis.

“I don’t know if this is my position. We’ll sit and watch tape and I’m sure I’ll talk with coach (Frank Vogel). I’ll talk with Larry (Bird) as well to get both their inputs on how the first game went but…I’m still not comfortable with it regardless of the situation. It’s still something I have to adjust to or maybe not. Or maybe it’s something we can go away from.”

George’s play against Anthony Davis and the Pelicans – in his first extended playing time since breaking his leg in August 2014, remember – is indeed indicative of just how much work he has left to do before mastering the role of small-ball 4. New Orleans’ MVP candidate scored his first three baskets of the game as a direct result of George’s defensive miscues, all of which could be due to his inexperience defending opposing big men.

Davis had 18 points and eight rebounds in the first half before sitting for the game’s second stanza. While those numbers are certainly impressive, they’re not an accurate portrayal of his play – the 22-year-old shot just 8-of-17 from the field. Nevertheless, George used his supposed defensive struggles as justification for ridiculing the position switch.

“Defensively, it’s rough. It’s rough,” George said, using repetition for emphasis as he often does. “It’s an adjustment because I’m not used to doing some of the things out there and I’m exerting more energy it feels like — from having to hedge on the ball screen, get back down low to a shot going up and now having to box out. So I don’t know. I don’t know.”

Offense was always going to come easier for George and the Pacers as they adjust to a wholly revamped ethos, and that was the case for a portion of Saturday night’s game. The 25-year-old began the contest by making his first four shots, taking advantage of his quickness, shooting range, and ability off the bounce to make life hell on Davis and Ryan Anderson.

But that early level of success wasn’t quite sustainable for he or Indiana. George finished the game making just three of his last 11 shots, and the Pacers managed a putrid offensive rating of 97.5 while turning the ball over on 18.7 percent of their possessions. In the locker room, George said those offensive labors would come nearly as frequently as offensive prowess for his new-look team.

“I mean, you put four wings out there at times we’re going to kick some ass,” George said. “We’re going to look good at times. But then you know, there’s going to be times when it’s not going to look so good.”

Reminder: Indiana’s season is less than one week old. Frank Vogel has had next to no time implementing his new schemes on both sides of the ball, and his players have had even less time adjusting to them. Anyone expecting the Pacers to play like the Golden State Warriors on Saturday was always going to be disappointed.

George’s comments, then, suggest his long-time displeasure at the prospect of starting games at power forward more than anything else. He endorsed the move through gritted teeth just days before training camp began, and is simply using the first sign of adversity available to the public – which, again, occurred in Indiana’s initial exhibition game of the season – as confirmation bias of his obvious hesitance to playing small-ball.

Unfortunately for George, the Pacers seem committed to the switch irrespective of his wishes. Larry Bird said that George “don’t make decisions around here” when news of his star player’s dissatisfaction first surfaced this summer, and Vogel has supported the sentiment championed by Indiana’s president at every turn.

For now, at least, the change is here to stay. And until time, process, and results have proven that George playing power forward is a losing game for both he and his team, that’s exactly how the Pacers should proceed.

[Via Indianapolis Star]