Indiana Pacers forward Paul George exploded for 32 points and pulled down two rebounds in 24 minutes of action in Tuesday's preseason contest against the Detroit Pistons .
George faced a minutes restriction when he returned from a broken leg last season, but with a full offseason to gain strength and rest up, the lengthy forward was back to star form Tuesday night. Though he was technically the starting power forward -- a position he's expected to man all season -- George effectively functioned as a stretch four, as the high volume of three-point attempts would illustrates.
Most impressively, George did most of his damage against the Pistons' starting crew, as 20 of his points (and all five of his treys) came in the first quarter. With his health concerns seemingly behind him, the 25-year-old looks like a fair bet to deliver at close to his 2013-14 levels, which could make him an early-round value option as other fantasy players choose to forgo drafting him with the gruesome leg injury etched permanently into their memory.
Rumors have been floated around throughout the offseason suggesting that George may be moved up to the four, and coach Frank Vogel finally offered some confirmation Thursday.
"An idea on paper is to have a starting lineup of George HIll, Monta Ellis, C.J. Miles, Paul George and Ian Mahinmi," Vogel said. A two-time All-Star, George is coming off of a season in which he only played six games after sitting out most of the year following a gruesome leg injury sustained during a Team USA scrimmage last summer.
George has primarily functioned as a small forward for the Pacers throughout his young career, but the team is thin in the frontcourt after parting with David West, Luis Scola, Chris Copeland and Roy Hibbert this offseason. "I'm the one who thinks he can play the four," president of basketball operations Larry Bird said. "I think the mismatches on the offensive end are greater than the defensive liability he'll have. I think he can handle it."
When asked about the notion of playing power forward this summer, George didn't balk at the idea, but he also didn't appear overly eager to make the change. "If I've got to play a couple minutes at power forward, I'm fine with it," George said.
George, who returned to the Pacers during the tail-end of the last season because of a leg injury, is preparing to play more power forward next year. The move will allow the Pacers to play at a faster pace, something that Pacers president Larry Bird wants.
"I'll be ready for it. I'm working on making that change and being prepared to play some forward this year," George said Thursday. "I understand what Larry (Bird) wants as far as playing the faster pace. I mean, I'm for it. That's the way the league is going nowadays."
George averaged 8.8 points and 3.7 rebounds in six games last season.
Appearing at the Indy 500 Festival Parade, George said he's doing "good" in his recovery from the injury, but he's still not at 100 percent.
"Not yet," he said, per Vigilant Sports. "I’m working towards it though."
Bird said, via the Indianapolis Star, that he wants George to learn how to play the power forward position by next season. It wouldn't be a move where George switches positions, but one where the Pacers could gain an advantage with a smaller lineup.
"David (West) is our starter, but when we go smaller we'd like to see Paul maybe play some '4' and you know everybody says, 'You'll have a problem on the defensive end,' well, I don't think so," Bird said. "He can guard about anybody, and then on the other end, it's a major plus for us."
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