Pacers’ Paul George looks forward to first All-Star game
Indiana Pacers forward/guard Paul George traveled with some of the NBA's top players on a goodwill tour of China last summer. George's reverse 360, between the legs, windmill slam dunk in Shanghai went viral when Lebron James tweeted about it. George impressed his peers, but also listened and learned from the game's best. The third-year player out of Fresno State plans to do the same when he plays in his first NBA All-Star game February 17th in Houston.
"Being with the guys in China, those moments brought a lot to my game," said George, speaking by phone from Salt Lake City, where the Pacers play the Utah Jazz Saturday night. "This is another opportunity to be around the high caliber and high quality guys in this league. I feel like it will be another step. It will add more growth to my game just being around them."
The 22-year-old George was named Thursday night as a reserve for the Eastern Conference All-Stars. He is the youngest ever of 12 Pacers to be named an NBA All-Star. Don Buse, Billy Knight, Reggie Miller, Detlef Schrempf, Rik Smits, Dale Davis, Jermaine O'Neal, Brad Miller, Ron Artest, Danny Granger and Roy Hibbert have also represented the Pacers in the mid-season showcase game.
"Being drafted is the first dream, obviously," said George. "You talk about winning the championship. But as an individual goal, to be an All-Star is right up there with it."
George was added to the roster in a vote by Eastern Conference coaches. He is averaging 17.3 points a game, 26th in scoring in the NBA.
George's season took a dramatic turn after he went scoreless at Golden State December 1st. He recommitted himself to improving. He came to the gym early to put up shot and lift weights. George has become the team's top player and is averaging about 19 points a game in December and January.
"I really started preparing for the games," said George, "really taking care of my body, being focused and really being a student of the game. That really just changed my whole mentality."
"He puts winning above everything else and he'll do whatever it takes: defense, rebounding, perimeter shooting, attacking the basket, creating for others," said Pacers Head Coach Frank Vogel in a team news release. "He is one of the most coachable players I've ever worked with."
George plans to take his family to Houston next month for the All-Star game. That includes his parents, sisters, niece, nephew and brother-in-law.
George took part in last year's All-Star weekend in Orlando in the Rising Stars Challenge and the Slam Dunk Contest.
Pacers fans thoughts veteran forward David West also had a chance to make the All-Star team.
"I'm kind of bummed," said George." He has been real consistent for us throughout the whole year."
The Pacers stand 26-17, just percentage points behind the Chicago Bulls for the Central Division lead, and fourth overall in the Eastern Conference. Indiana plays nine more games before the All-Star break.