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#pounditSaturday, August 8, 2020

Paul George not pleased with Pacers’ plan to start him at power forward

Paul George Kobe Bryant

The staring contest going on between Pacers president Larry Bird and forward Paul George is becoming one of the best underrated subplots for the upcoming NBA season.

A little over two months after Bird commented on George’s reluctance to play the power forward position saying, “He don’t make decisions around here,” it looks like his plan to stick the 25-year-old All-Star at the 4 is coming to fruition.

According to a story by Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star on Thursday, Pacers head coach Frank Vogel revealed his tentative 2015-16 starting lineup with George slotted in at power forward alongside George Hill, newcomer Monta Ellis, CJ Miles, and Ian Mahinmi.

Shortly thereafter, George himself reacted to the Vogel’s announcement. “That’s kinda new to me,” he told Buckner. “We talked about it some (but) for him to say it in the papers, I guess he’s pretty confident on me starting as the power forward.”

The Fresno State product then expressed some skepticism about the decision. “I don’t think I’m at that point in my career where I should be changing positions,” George continued. “I think guys do that later in their career. They put on weight, (begin) lacking physical attributes as far as being quick, so I don’t necessarily feel the need to play a different position, especially coming back into a new season and starting fresh again. So it’s a change, it’s definitely a change. We’ll see how it goes.”

In a separate interview on Thursday with ESPN’s Mike Mazzeo, George reiterated his displeasure, saying that he “isn’t too thrilled” about making the change.

“I pride myself on being a ballplayer first and foremost, but there’s a difference playing the 4,” George said. “I know that’s the way the league is going, having stretch 4s and perimeter-oriented big men, but those guys have been doing that for years and have size on me and strength on me. So it’s gonna be an adjustment. And I’m just used to being at the 3, and that’s what made me special is just being able to guard perimeter guys.”

In the end though, it does appear that George is at least open to the idea of it and will let training camp decide his comfort level at the position.

Playing George at the 4 certainly has its merits. As the league goes small, a premium has been placed on having versatile athletes at traditional big man positions who can operate from either the perimeter or the post. At 6-foot-9, 220 pounds, George has the size to compete down low, and while his back-to-the-basket game isn’t quite at Carmelo Anthony-levels for a combo forward, it has still proven to be very serviceable.

As the NBA begins to abjure the big, hulking power forwards of old in favor of rangy stretch-fours, George shouldn’t have as much difficulty defending opposing 4s as you would think. And on offense, his ability to stretch the floor from that position will open up driving lanes for Hill and especially the elite-slasher Ellis to exploit the defense. The loss of David West and Roy Hibbert may have also necessitated such a change with newcomers Jordan Hill and Myles Turner (along with Pacer vets Lavoy Allen and Mahinmi) being relatively undersized for big men.

Still, making such a drastic positional switch so early in your career can come as a bit of a culture shock, especially since George has yet to play a full season since that devastating broken leg last summer. He won’t be able to focus nearly as much of his attention on locking down opposing perimeter threats, a skill that has already won him two All-Defensive Team selections, and as power forward, he may have to cede touches on offense to accommodate the Pacer guards.

Reinventing yourself as a player is no easy challenge, but if George can at least warm up to the idea and realize how much that strategic deployment can benefit the Pacers in this era of pace-and-space, he will be glad that he did.

H/T CBS Sports

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