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Summit: Paul George

Being a Paul George fan, It’s heartwarming to see Paul George playing some of his best basketball, both in the playoffs and in the regular season. However, to get to the better half of his career, George had to undergo struggle, both in the playoffs and in reputation, as well as ridicule. Today, I want to take a look at Playoff P’s Career in a new series I like to call “Summit”. This will be when I analyze a player's come-up into the league, how they made a name for themselves, their own tribulations, and how they are now. Share your opinion if you want, but as always, enjoy the read.

Now, I’m not going to invade Paul’s Privacy here, so let’s just start when he got drafted. Paul George (born in 1990 if anyone cares) was selected 10th overall by the Indiana Pacers, where he started slow, averaging only 7 points per game, with 4 rebounds and an assist. However, he started having a Jump in numbers in 2012, when he started to average 12-6-2, and the next year, he unsurprisingly won the Most Improved player award. He not only averaged 17 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists, but he also won All-Defensive 2nd Team Honors and All-NBA Third Team. While doing this, he led an Indiana squad of Roy Hibbert, Danny Granger, and David West to the 3rd best record in a stacked eastern conference.

In the First Round against Al Horford, Jeff Teague, Josh Smith, and a 44 win Atlanta squad, Indiana rallied and beat the Hawks in 6 games. However, the competition wouldn’t get easier from there- in just the next round was a powerful, quick paced Knicks Team, led by Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith. Once again, the Pacers superstars gathered and triumphed over the Knicks; sadly for New York, this would be their last playoff appearance until 2021, nearly 8 years later. Nevertheless, the toughest challenge was yet to come, as the Pacers now had to battle against the reigning champion Heat, led by the Big 3 of All-Stars Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, as well as Lebron James, who was coming off yet another MVP season. This is the final challenge, and all Indiana needed was four wins to advance and meet the Spurs in the NBA Finals. Despite a tough seven game struggle in which George averaged 19 points on 44% shooting from three*, they failed to answer the bell, and Miami advanced.

Despite falling in the conference finals, many saw the loss as an achievement, and with a few roster moves, the Pacers could make it all the way. With George now locked into a 5 year player extension, the Pacers were ready to run it back the same way last year, with a couple of roster changes here and there. Up until this point, the 2013-2014 season was George’s personal best, averaging 22 points, seven rebounds and 4 assists, qualifying for an All-Star appearance, As well as All-Defensive 1st Team and All-NBA third team honors. At the same time, the Pacers climbed the nba ladder to first in the conference, even beating out the Heat by two games. They came into the playoffs with energy, yet faced a surprisingly tough opponent in the Atlanta Hawks; the same team they had just dismantled last season in the second round pushed Indiana to a seven game series in which George averaged 25 points per game to advance to the second round, where they would meet a newly redesigned Wizards team, featuring a 21 year old Bradley Beal and a 24 year old John Wall. However, the capital city only lasted for 6 games, as the Pacers were once again just four wins away from the Finals. However, just as last year, they had to face the Miami Heat. Despite a valiant effort from George and Indiana, Miami again advanced to the Finals instead.

This is our first peak: at the top of the world, the Pacers and their superstar seem to be doing fine until a 2014 scrimmage for team USA. As George goes up for a block on James Harden, he falls hard on the basket’s stanchion- his leg snaps. He is diagnosed with a fracture of both the tibia and fibula in his right leg, and misses all but eight games of the 2014-2015 season. This is where the reign of Indiana comes to a halt, as without their star, Indiana is left defenseless against the forces of an Eastern Conference dominated by Lebron’s Cavs, Schröeder and Horford’s Hawks, and a young Chicago squad led by a 26 year old Jimmy Butler. For the first time since 2011, the Pacers miss the Playoffs.

Coming into the 2015-2016 season, after a quick change to the number 13, George openly stated that he was getting serious on nutrition and recovery after saying that before the injury:

I felt I was immortal, I was invincible. I’ve made so many plays where guys go down and I walked up clean from it. I did feel that nothing bad could ever happen to me on the court.

Paul George, Road Back: Part One, Bleacher Report

Through his hardships with this gruesome injury, George came back and played a full 81 games with a rod in his leg, where he put up another career high 23.1 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists. Despite the fantastic play from the All-NBA player, Indiana only entered the playoffs as the 7th seed, and immediately faced the tough Toronto Raptors, who were just coming off of their best year yet led by All-Stars Demar Derozan and Kyle Lowry. In spite of George’s MVP-like numbers, he was brought back down by a poor performance from CJ Miles, Monta Ellis, and many others en route to lose to Toronto in 7 games.

After a disappointing first round exit, and with the other stars of the 2012-2013 team such as Roy Hibbert, Lance Stephenson and George Hill long gone, many speculated George to leave in free agency or request a trade, which he ended up doing. However, before being traded, he put up fantastic numbers like 24 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists. However, the incredible season once again ends in disappointment, as the Pacers get swept in the first round by Lebron James and the reigning champion Cavaliers.

The trade deadline was cut in the offseason, as George was shipped to the OKC Thunder for future all stars Domantas Sabonis and Victor Oladipo. In the next 2018 season, this team led by Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and PG, the Thunder severely underperformed, with not only getting the 4th seed, but also being upset in the first round by the Utah Jazz. This is where the first of many playoff struggles began for George, as he shot just 41% from the field and 36 percent from three. However, in spite of the first round exit, George signed a four-year, $137 million max contract extension with the Thunder, stating “I’m here to stay.” with the same core, the Thunder once again attempted to run it back, and once again underperformed despite the MVP-esque season from George, as they lost in 5 in the first round of the playoffs by a game winning shot from Damian Lillard. George shocked the world with his horrible efforts, shooting just 41& from the field and an awful 31% from the arc. Even though George had just signed an extension, he again requested a trade, this time to the Clippers to team up with Kawhi Leonard, the reigning Finals MVP. The Clippers thrived, and despite their lack of depth and chemistry, they finished 2nd in the east, only behind the rival Lakers. Even with a magnificent performance from Dallas’ Luka Dončić, the Clippers still survived in 6, despite an at best mediocre performance from George (19 points, 35% FG, 27% 3PT). With all the momentum, the Clippers jumped out to a 3-1 series lead against the Denver Nuggets, led by the future MVP Nikola Jokic. George gets a lot of the blame for this series, but statistically, he didn’t have a bad series at all; the lack of team chemistry and understanding of the game from their coach Doc Rivers caused them to fall under the pressure and lose 4 straight. They were just the 12th team to forfeit a 3-1 series lead. This season we saw no large difference in George’s numbers, and the Clippers, this time with a little bit of chemistry, entered as the fourth seed. After winning again to Dallas in six, they went up against the first seeded Jazz, where they were caught down 0-2 against them. With a little help from Playoff P’s 37 points in Game 5 and 28 in game 6, George and the Clippers overcame Utah in 6. In the next round, George once again found himself four wins away from a finals appearance. Despite a 41 point performance from George, Chris Paul, Devin Booker and the Suns advanced to meet the Miluakee Bucks in the Finals. Now we will see how PG-13 can perform this season; so far he’s started hot. Can he answer the call, or will George once again falter under pressure?