Paul George was the talk of the league during the first month of the season. He averaged close to 30 points and 8 rebounds in November with a +12 plus/minus, putting him in the earliest of MVP conversations. His numbers haven’t been as prolific since, and while he’s not necessarily struggling, he admitted to things feeling different than at the start of the season.
George commented on what he feels is a changing role after Monday’s 111-106 overtime loss to the Cavaliers, from Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star:
“It’s hard to find the words for it,” George told IndyStar after scoring 11 points on 3-of-15 shooting while leading the team with eight assists, but collecting five turnovers. “Before it was, I had the confidence just being out there. I knew what I could do and I was comfortable in doing that. Then it was like slowly ‘you can’t do this, you can’t do that, too much of this, too much of that,’ so I had to change it up a little bit. Kind of opened it up for our other guys to be aggressive and have opportunities.
“So I’m not sure what to call it.”
“It’s changed, it’s definitely changed (since the) start of the year,” George said. “Just kinda felt like I had the confidence and coach was giving me the confidence with the green light. I’m still confident, guys are still making the right plays. Just seems like a transition a little bit.”
Part of this could be the natural course of regression to the mean for George. He came out of the gate guns blazing, clearly excited about being fully healthy and having his powers back. Now, he’s experiencing more than ever before the burden of being “the guy”. The only other true scoring threat on the Pacers is Monta Ellis, who has done well in that role, but George carries a heavy scoring responsibility with this group. Maintaining his hot start was unlikely, especially since George isn’t the type to take 25-30 shots per game just to appease his scoring average.
Career Scoring by Month:
Nov: 20 PPG
Dec: 19.9 PPG
Jan: 16.7 PPG
Feb: 15.1 PPG
Mar: 14.2 PPG
Apr: 12.1 PPG
Not a narrative…
— Josh Eberley (@JoshEberley) February 2, 2016
George is back to being comfortable and confident with his abilities, but as teams continue to zero in on him it becomes more important for him to try and maximize the abilities of his teammates. If anything, that’s the new role he’s referring to — being the primary scorer and playmaker at the same time. Establishing that balance can be a challenge.