After two games in Miami, it's no longer assured that the Heat — reigning champs, winners of 27 straight in the regular season, top seed in the Eastern Conference, proud owners of fans like these — are going to dispatch the Indiana Pacers quickly, or for that matter, at all. The series is tied at a game apiece, and this with Indiana's usual top scorer, Danny Granger, out with knee troubles. With apologies to Roy Hibbert (and to Joel Anthony) you can pretty much chalk this up to the emergence of John Ringo Paul George. Miami has now lost just four times in its past 50 games and yet the narrative has spun to, Shit, you gotta get a load of this George kid.
"[T]he closest [the Pacers] have to a traditional NBA superstar," writes Adrian Wojnarowski.
"Re-draft top five in 2010: 1. Paul George 2. John Wall 3. Greg Monroe 4. Derrick Favors 5. Gordon Hayward," twoth Chad Ford. (In reality the Pacers selected George 10th, from Fresno State.)
"[Pacers coach Frank] Vogel is Khaleesi, the mother of dragons, and George is his baby dragon," Jason Whitlock wrote as a professional, employed writer.
Many many words, wrote SB Nation's James Herbert. (Short version: Paul George was lightly recruited out of high school but has worked his tail off since then.)
This is how a basketball player belatedly (even at 23) goes from lottery pick to All-Star to bona fide NBA star. He won the Most Improved Player this season, joining a motley collection of pros who often as not apparently stopped improving once they received the award. (Of note: Since 2000, when Jalen Rose won, the Pacers have produced four MIP winners. ) The George love-in has ignored his inconvenient position as the guy LeBron James blew past to sink the game-winning bunny at the end of Game 1. Hibbert wasn't in, so that defensive snafu landed on Vogel.
That left George to cement himself as a bit of a revelation in the third quarter of Game 2. George deked James, obliteration-dunked on Lisbeth Salander and soon after secret-handshook with James. The press read that gesture as James acknowledging that George has graduated to Playoff Badass. Google has reacted accordingly. We're not witnessing the birth of a great player; that happened mostly out of view. Rather, we're watching one of the most boring names in the NBA go household, at short last.
Photo credit of George: AP