Don't tell Paul George that preseason games are meaningless.
Because right now for the Indiana Pacers, this is George's time to shine as they prepare to take another step up in the Eastern Conference.
On Tuesday night against the Atlanta Hawks, the third-year swingman had 20 points and eight rebounds to lead the Indiana Pacers to a 102-98 win. He closed out the first half with a buzzer-beating three-pointer, and then knocked down two free-throws with under a minute left in the game to seal the deal.
But George's overall growth as a focal point of the Pacers' offense comes at a price. Simply put: without Danny Granger stepping in, Indiana needs Paul George to step up.
Granger has been sidelined after receiving a platelet rich plasma injection into his left knee last month, and should be available to play in the last two preseason games versus the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls.
At least that is the plan.
But regardless if Granger can go or remains brought along slowly heading into the regular season with his knee, Indiana can only benefit from George's production. Coach Frank Vogel is taking notice too:
Paul is showing his assertiveness. It’s not showing up in his field goal percentage, but he’s attacking the basket and getting to the free throw line and scoring in a variety of ways.
Earlier in the month, George confessed he feels that he has a lot riding on him this season. So true. The organization — and league for that matter — has seen the talent that is there and now it is up to George to showcase that ability on a consistent basis.
Easier said than done. But what better time than now?
George averaged 12.1 points and 5.6 rebounds a game last season, and the way he attacked this offseason — hitting the weights, developing his low post game, and also being part of the USA Select Team — George should be one of those players primed for a break-out season.
He is already taking the steps in that direction this preseason.