All-Star Indiana Pacers small forward Paul George is one of the few current NBA superstars who seems to be liked by everyone in the league. He’s been publicly hailed by several other superstars, from LeBron James to Kevin Durant, as being a class act and a great competitor and opponent.
When he suffered his horrific leg injury in the summer of 2014, the general sense from players around the NBA was that such a terrible thing couldn’t have happened to a better, more undeserving guy. So what’s gotten into George lately?
Typically calm and reserved, George has thrown two separate teammates under the bus in consecutive postgame press conferences to start the playoffs. The first one was somewhat understandable, as he chastised C.J. Miles for taking this shot at the buzzer with the Pacers down one.
After the game, George made it clear that he wasn’t pleased with the shot, basically saying that since he’s the best player on the team, he should get the opportunity to take the last shot in a situation like that.
That’s fair. Most great players want to have the ball in their hands with a playoff game on the line. But it’s not like Miles had a bad look, as his shot could’ve easily been made and was far more ideal than anything that George could’ve attempted. Like LeBron pointed out when defending Miles, George was being double-teamed beyond the arc and stood little chance with that amount time remaining of making something happen.
All in all, there’s nothing wrong with George feeling like he should’ve been given the chance to take the last shot, but there’s definitely something wrong with him publicly dressing down his veteran teammate for taking a decent shot.
George was publicly criticized by a wide array of sports pundits for opting to take something that should’ve stayed in the locker room and airing it to the public like that. But he clearly didn’t learn his lesson, as his Game 2 postgame press conference was even more volatile.
Addressing Lance Stephenson’s negative demeanor and out-of-control playing style in last night’s game, George told the media that Stephenson needs to “learn to control himself.”
While that may be true, it’s not good for George to take a shot at a proven player like Lance to the media, especially since he’s done so much for the Pacers in the past. George clearly recognizes that he’s the leader of this Indiana team, but he may be allowing that power to go to his head, as his public critiques of teammates aren’t good looks for him.
As for why he’s been doing this, it may be frustration over a Pacers team that still doesn’t feel like it’s totally his to lead. When LeBron and other veteran superstars seem to be the undisputed leaders of their respective teams, always serving as the primary playmakers and keeping younger teammates in line, George might feel undermined with his current situation.
Playing on a team that has seemed to fall short of expectations each year that George has been considered an NBA superstar likely can’t be helping his temperament now that the Pacers seem primed to disappoint in the playoffs yet again.
Whatever the reason, George needs to cool it with the excessive public criticism before he alienates himself from his teammates and mars the Pacers executives’ views of continuing to build around him. Because basketball’s a team sport, no matter how you look at it, and George has to be a leader that his teammates can trust and confide in if the Pacers are going to ever do anything substantial with George leading the way.