Sometimes I wonder whether Paul George would rather choose peace. As I wrote last offseasonit seems like he doesn’t even have to really do anything to get people talking, and when he does do something it causes a tidal wave in the social media world.
So where does him having a private conversation with Patrick Beverley about the Phoenix Suns leave him? Apparently he can’t even do that these days without it causing some kind of storm, though I guess when you befriend a guy like Pat you know exactly what you’re signing up for — and, to be honest, his foray into the world of sportscasting has so far been nothing if not entertaining.
Within one of the many debates the Timberwolves guard shared with ESPN’s resident debate specialist Stephen A. Smith, Beverley discussed the idea that Devin Booker belongs in the same bracket as “prime” Paul George — referring to his days as an Indiana Pacer. The problem was, by separating the current version of George from his former self, Pat accidentally found himself in a similar camp to the PG haters and it wasn’t even really through any fault of his own.
Yet by splitting talk of his talents between the past and the present, the nuances of the Los Angeles Clippers star’s game and the trials and tribulations he’s experienced to this point in his career are lost.
So let’s start it off like this. Of course, George isn’t the player he was in Indiana. Not only does Father Time ensure that no elite athlete can sustain the exact same level of performance for the best part of a decade, the 32-year-old suffered what could’ve been a career-ending injury when he was at his most athletic .
It’s always hard for somebody operating at those heights to come back and be able to trust their body in the same way without having to adapt their game to some extent, but he has done so seamlessly. Despite that extended period of rehabilitation, he still managed to come back and carry the Pacers franchise on his back for two more seasons, before moving to Oklahoma City and doing the best possible job of filling the gaping hole left by Kevin Durant’s departure.
Over that time he has managed to become a better shooter and found ways to level up on the defensive side of the ball, despite losing a step in terms of quickness and some of the durability he used to have when shutting down the league’s biggest and best . Since arriving in Los Angeles, he’s even gone another step further by becoming a high-level playmaker, adding yet another string to an already impressive bow.
Though George’s name is not one of the first you think of when it comes to the NBA’s biggest stars in the modern day, that’s not to say he hasn’t become a more well-rounded basketball player and done so having sustained such a huge injury during his breakout years. When discussing the best two-way players, his name should be right up with the guy who happens to sit just across the locker room from him.
Guys like Booker, while boasting tons of offensive talent, haven’t shown the same ability to truly lead a team and be able to pull them out of a hole as Paul George has done throughout the majority of his career, and continues to do so to this day with Kawhi Leonard still sitting† PG can also boast that he is yet to lose a playoff series to Luka Doncic unlike his on-court rival, for all the credit that the Slovenian deserves for continuing to produce those moments of magic in the postseason.
So while Stephen A. and some other non-hooper pundits will continue to make lazy comparisons when assessing the merits of today’s up and coming stars, they should always be met with arguments that are nuanced and acknowledge the work that goes into maintaining a career at the highest level. That’s what Paul George has done, and it’s about time he was given more respect for adapting his game and simultaneously staying at top of it.