Paul George was, by some accounts, a superstar in the NBA. He was breathtakingly talented on some nights.
It is those last three words that have put us in this dumb pickle. On some nights. Those are heavy words indeed for any professional athlete, and for a superstar such as him, they are apparently blasphemous—the solid iron-nickel core of the PG-doubters’ planet. That core is incredibly dense and also hotter than the sun (thanks to it being made out of an iron-nickel alloy and only the scaldingly hottest #HotTakes). It has its own magnetic field and noon-time sports radio show.
George’s greatest weakness, the theory goes, is too often lit up with the trillion-watt mega-beam of his physical magnificence. In other words, old-man meathead Pacers fans want him to be brilliant every night. That he is not is grounds for divorce. They want that rare, both-ends-of-the-floor dominance that he is obviously capable of delivering, and they do not want it biweekly or only in the dire straits of the playoffs. They want it on a cold, dark Tuesday in Toronto in early February too, and every game thereafter.
Additionally, this (I think—or hope) minority of people take grave offense at the way PG handles himself off the court, as well. I have only caught bits and pieces of daytime sports radio this week, but I noticed a sense that they feel as if he talks too much and leads too little. They believe he blames the refs too often after games, that he is not mentally tough, and that because he did not want to play the “stretch 4” position that one time a couple years ago that he is worse than Pol Pot and The Spin Doctors combined.
To be fair, there is a grain of truth in all of these complaints. He is not as consistent as, say, Kevin Durant. He does not lead the Pacers in a macho, tough-guy way by punching teammates and Herb Simon in the forehead, as Michael Jordan used to do. He does complain about the refs quite a bit—nearly as much as every other person who plays in the NBA. And yes, he disliked playing a new position that he had never in his life played before.
These are, at best, minor annoyances. Like my kids.
Their greatest weakness is not unlike PG’s in that I know they are capable of listening to me. I know they can follow directions and get ready for school in the morning in a timely manner without me melting down under the stress of 26 simultaneous rage strokes. I mean, they have it in them. They have that ability; they can get themselves ready unilaterally on my command. Sometimes, though, they simply choose to watch Ninjago videos on an iPad or wander aimlessly around the basement looking for pants. It is frustrating.
You know what would be more frustrating, though? If one of them ever told me to “f— off and die” or some such. Or if the girl were doing a 36-month stint in juvie for carjacking a state senator. Or if the youngest’s best friend was fire. Those would all be alarming and causes for real concern. Selective hearing, though, is not. I am not sending them off to Culver Academy to the tune of $920,000,000 per semester because of it. I simply need to parent them better.
Similarly, that PG is not straight-up Batman every night is no reason to ship him off to the barren netherworld of the Los Angeles Lakers for pennies on the dollar, or even dollars on the dollar. (Bags of diamonds on the dollar and we’ll talk.) He is—by any known objective standard—a bona fide superstar in today’s NBA who is never plagued by scandals or suspensions or the inability to play defense. Old-man dinosaur coaches who populate daytime radio do not care for his casual demeanor because casual demeanors do not unilaterally win basketball games, and that is true for the most part. But old-man dinosaur coaches do not like superstars period; their talents wield too much power. My kids do, though. They love Paul George, and normal, rational Pacers fans do too.
From all accounts, he is a genuinely nice, exceedingly polite person who truly enjoys Indianapolis and who also happens to be one of the 10 best players on the planet—and one of the NBA’s best four or five two-way players when he chooses to be. To insinuate that the Pacers can and should attempt to do better than Paul George is a sign of dementia.