PG, Teammates Excited About New Roster Additions
Paul George doesn’t believe this is the appropriate point in his career to make a position change, but he’s willing to give it a trial run.
George, speaking with media at the Pacers Foundation golf outing at Brickyard Crossing on Thursday, expressed reservations about playing power forward in the upcoming season, after establishing himself as an All-Star as a swingman between shooting guard and small forward over the past five seasons.
The idea of banging with bulkier players doesn’t excite him, particularly coming off last summer’s broken leg that kept him out of all but six games last season, but he also recognizes the advantages that could come with being guarded by slower players.
“It’s not what I came in the league as,” George said. “I don’t think I’m at that point of my career where I should be changing position. Guys do that later in their career when they put on weight or lack physical attributes as far as being quick – I’m still all of that. I don’t feel the need to play a different position. Especially come back to a new season, starting fresh again. It’s a change. We’ll see how it goes.”
Team president Larry Bird said earlier in the summer that George would be given a shot at power forward as part of the Pacers’ transition to a smaller and faster style of play. George had already expressed doubts about it at that point, which prompted Bird, in his typical sarcastic manner, to remark, “He don’t make the decisions around here.”
Bird said he had made from small forward to power forward late in his playing career and enjoyed not having to chase quicker players on the perimeter.
“I think Larry was 40 when he made that change,” George said, smiling. “It was a little later in his career. He was definitely able to outsmart those guys at that position. I’m not going to sit here and shoot it down. I do see the positives in playing a smaller lineup and having the ability to take advantage of somebody who can’t stay in front of me, so I’m not going to knock as if it’s a terrible decision. I see the positives.”
Pacers coach Frank Vogel had indicated recently he opens training camp next Tuesday with the idea that George will be the starting power forward, a point he reiterated earlier on Tuesday.
That took George somewhat by surprise, who thought it was going to be just an occasional thing. George said he’ll keep an open mind but hopes he has a strong voice in the final decision.
“I hope my happiness comes first in this whole ordeal,” he said. “Again, I’m not someone who’s not going to…kill a locker room. I ‘m open to it. I just want to see how it goes.”
Vogel supported George’s claim that he’s 100 percent healthy and has 90 percent of his timing back, and plans to put no restrictions on his participation.
George has been working out in Los Angeles and, for the past couple of weeks, in Indianapolis.
“I feel great,” he said. “My body feels amazing. Ready to start this year.”
Regardless of where he plays, George is optimistic about the offseason roster changes. Bird has brought in seven new players and another, Toney Douglas, with a partial contract guarantee, tilting the emphasis toward quickness and scoring.
In other words, they’ll play like many Western Conference teams.
“I think we are capable of changing the East,” George said. “We have a lot of scorers. Great playmakers. Great ballhandlers. Our whole makeup as changed. If we have success at playing the small ball game, we can change the whole East.”
George singled out forward Chase Budinger for praise, based on what he’s seen this summer. Budinger, acquired in an offseason trade for Damjan Rudez, has fully recovered from the knee injury that limited him the past two seasons.
“I think Chase Budinger is going to be a big, big, big piece for us,” George said. “A lot of people aren’t familiar with what he can do. He’s been very surprising. I’ve been working with him in L.A. this summer, so I know what he’s capable of. He’s been looking great playing pickup ball this summer.”