After Paul George answered questions following Game 1 and 2 losses to the Cleveland Cavaliers, he was the subject of conversation from the national media calling him selfish and a bad teammate for “calling teammates out” and “throwing teammates under the bus.”
These are coming from writers and national reporters who haven’t stepped foot inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse to watch a Pacers game in person or speak with George at his locker. But of course “they know” this is the four-time All-Star planning his exit from Indianapolis.
It’s inaccurate and bad for our profession. Nonetheless, it’s been out there and so George was asked to comment on it Wednesday after practice.
“It was complete ignorance, to be honest,” he said to a large media scrum. “Everybody knows how close I am with my teammates. To really make that the highlight of the series — I said that, and that only to motivate us to win a series. That’s what this thing is about, winning. And trying to bring a championship to Indy. And trying to get out of this first round.
“That was the only story that needed to be written about. For them to say I’m a selfish teammate or I don’t think about my teammates or I’m throwing teammates under the bus, I didn’t say anything bad about my teammates other than what they asked that I think my teammates can do down the stretch to help this team win. I didn’t say anything that was even close to throwing them under the bus.
“It is what it is. Our locker room is still great. I’m still very pleased with all of my teammates.”
So what did George do? He said, as the team leader and star, he should have taken the final shot in Game 1. True, but there wasn’t enough time and so C.J. Miles, a quality shooter, did — but missed.
After Game 2, he was specially asked what the team needs from Myles Turner after the second-year player had a poor showing. Then, George was asked about Lance Stephenson energy and how he’s the emotional barometer for this team.
We ask athletes to be honest and interesting, and George has done that for the most part. And he is always available, something we skip over. For those reasons, our local chapter of the Pro Basketball Writers Association presented George with the Mel Daniels Award at the end of last season for cooperation with the media.
Coach Nate McMillan has no problem with his star’s comments.
“Some of the things I heard, I didn’t feel there was an issue with that,” he said. “You challenge your guys, your teammates. As far as our guys, we know that we believe in each other and trust in each other.”
At this point of the season, 84 meaningful games in, players’ voices may resonate more in the locker room. While the coaches can game plan and scheme against the opponent, the players are going to battle together.
“Not to say that the teammates’ voice is more important, but sometimes it does carry a little bit more weight because that’s the guy you’re on the floor with and you have to battle with,” George said. “And sometimes players see things different than coaches.”
McMillan, a former player with the Seattle SuperSonics (1986-1998) himself, recognizes this as well.
“That’s something that we talk about all season long. Some of that you need on the floor. Communication with each other is very important. Of course the coach is going to have his voice. Sometimes they get tired of listening to that and you’re going to need that voice out on the floor.”
This is a good reminder to consider the source when you are reading about a subject or specific team. For these reasons and more, LeBron James turns off social media during the postseason. I’m not sure why most players don’t. Tune out the noise to lock in on what needs to be done.
— LeBron James (@KingJames) April 15, 2017
I asked Paul George about this on Wednesday, whether he does the same as James or two-time NBA MVP Steph Curry.
“Nah. No Zero Dark 23 over here,” he said with a big smile.
Then, he later reiterated, “We got strong relationships here. I didn’t say anything wrong.”