But this is a completely different mindset than the one that often boggled our minds the past couple of seasons, when it often seemed as if George was unnecessarily subjugating his own obvious ability in order to avoid offending the Pacers’ established star.
When Danny Granger makes his season debut, possibly Wednesday when the Pacers host the New York Knicks, George will defer not because he is stepping back into the shadows, but because he has fully accepted the responsibility of the spotlight.
“I’m going to really be the one to really try to get him going,” George said. “When he comes back and starts playing you might see a little deferring just because I want (Granger) to get back to the level he’s been playing. That’s not taking away from me offensively, but I will try to get him going.”
This from the player that just scored 17 points in the NBA All-Star Game Sunday in Houston, the most by a Pacers player in franchise history.
PACERS HAVE EVOLVED IN GRANGER’S ABSENCE
Though most of the faces are the same, the Pacers are a very different team than when Granger last stepped onto the court for a game that counted last May.
Then, Granger was the man. Now, this is George’s team; if he isn’t the face of the franchise yet, he is in the center of the picture. It is Granger that will have to adapt to a complementary role.
Which begs the question: when you’ve been the sun for so long, can you suddenly figure out how survive in someone else’s orbit?
“I think they’re going to be the way they’ve always been, which is great teammates, great respect for each other,” Coach Frank Vogel said. “As soon as I put Danny on the blue team (in practice Tuesday) Paul George’s face lit up and it was just like, ‘Lets go get ‘em like old times,’ I think he said.
“They’re itching to play together and that’s what it’s got to be about.”
The timing of Granger’s return is particularly telling because it comes on the heels of George’s first appearance in the All-Star Game. At age 22, George’s star is on the rise. At 29, Granger is hardly a geriatric but his best years have passed.
“He looks good,” George said. “He looks like he didn’t miss a beat. He still has the same burst, the same explosiveness. I think the only thing is his wind and his legs getting under him. When he comes back, it’ll almost be like he wasn’t out.”
Almost, but not quite.
LONG-TERM BOOST, SHORT-TERM ADJUSTMENT
Granger will not step onto the court a 20-point scorer. He has a grand total of one full practice and a couple of halfcourt scrimmages under his belt. It will take time to rebuild conditioning, timing and rhythm.
In that time, Granger will get a wholly different perspective on George’s importance to this team, not to mention a sense of how both must adapt.
“I guess right now all we can do is go with the flow,” George said. “I think we can play well off each other. That’s the only thing I have to really hang my hat on or have my mind on is hopefully we can play well together. …
“I’ve always been a team and a system guy, to do whatever it takes to win but I’m still going to be aggressive. I still want to look for my moments to be aggressive and put points up or create. I think just with Granger out there, it kind of helps things out. He can attack and kind of do the same things I can.”
Granger’s return ultimately should be a very good thing for all involved. The Pacers regain the services of a deadly shooter, explosive scorer and strong veteran presence. Long-term, the team will be much, much better – and it already is very good.
In the short-term, however, there may be some bumps along the way as adjustments are made. George, true to his upbeat nature, is seeing only the positives.
“I’ve got to get my assists up,” he said with a smile, “so I know he’ll help.”