Our NBA expert Akinbode Oguntuyi, who is currently in Toronto for the 2016 NBA All Star Weekend, joined the conversation with Indiana Pacers Three-time All Star, Paul George on Friday 5th February, to get the thoughts of the California native on his game, his team, his career so far and the All Star Weekend, here is a full transcript of the interview as George fielded questions from journalists all over the world. Transcript is courtesy NBA PROPERTIES INC
Mike Perrelli: Good morning, good afternoon, good evening everybody. Mike Perrelli from NBA PR here along with Chase Kressel and Elliot Steinbaum. Just as a reminder, if you need to ask a question, please dial star, 1 on your keypad. We have Paul here now. Paul George who is appearing in his third career All Star Game in Toronto on Sunday, February 14 at 8:30 pm Eastern. Just as a reminder, this is the first NBA All Star Game to be held outside of the United States. With that, let’s open it up to questions.
Operator: Okay. Our first question is from David Chinellato with NBA Italy. Please go ahead.
David Chinellato: Hi Paul. Thank you for doing this. My question is about your unique journey from being seriously injured and then making it to the All Star Game. How tough was that for you to make it back and how good is it to be in an All Star Game?
Paul George: It’s amazing. This one is probably the one that touches the most ((inaudible)) and built my way back up because ((inaudible)) an All Star once more. I just feel like that everyone that followed me through the journey played a huge part and I’m very thankful for all the fans that have and voted me back and got me into my third All Star Game.
Operator: Next question comes from (Shen Yang) with Tencent. Please go ahead.
(Shen Yang): Hi Paul. ((inaudible)) Kobe challenged Jordan for the MVP title. Since this year it will be Kobe’s last All Star Game do you look to challenge Kobe ((inaudible)) Kobe stopped Jordan from winning the MVP title?
Paul George: I’m more just looking forward to just giving a great performance for the fans that voted me in. I definitely wanting to play my best and just have fun out there. I’m definitely looking at to enjoy the moment so if me and Kobe play, go around the All Star Game just looking forward to and enjoying that moment.
Operator: Next question is from Nira Khurana with Excelsior.
Nira Khurana: Hi Paul. You’ve talked a lot about the injury that you had but I was wondering if you had seen the replay of your injury and if so, what are your thoughts on what happened?
Paul George: No, I’ve only watched it once and I won’t watch it again. It’s a one-time thing. Just had to see what happened. I’ve put it behind me in the past. Passed that situation now.
Operator: Thank you. Next question is from Martin Klotz with SPOX in Germany.
Martin Klotz: Hi Paul. You had a fantastic start to the season but you’re in a little bit of a shooting slump right now. Is it the different kind of defense that’s bothering you or is it maybe you just simply doubting yourself a little bit too much lately?
Paul George: It’s more so of just not being in competition for a little over a year. I think I’m still just getting adjusted to this. Trying to work my way through it, battling fatigue and legs tiring out. So just trying to build my legs back up and getting that endurance back up. But it’s something that I definitely ((inaudible)) just something for now and I’ll definitely turn it back up. ((inaudible)).
Operator: Next question is from Julian Greenwood with Die Welt in Germany. Please go ahead.
Julian Greenwood: Hi Paul. Thanks for your time. Really appreciate it. I’d just like to know after that great comeback you’ve got now after that terrible injury, and you’ve been to the All Star and to start immediately. Do you consider that as a sign of how much the people love you but also what they expect from you in the near future?
Paul George: Yes, it definitely is a sign of both. That’s the reason why this to me is so special. It’s not just because the love for them to vote me back to being starter, it’s just the love. Then also, I expect a lot from myself. After the injury, going into the summer I expected to return to form. I expected to be my old self. I knew it was going to take some time to get back used to my legs, get back used to my body, get back top form on the court, but I did see myself being back to where I’m at now. I didn’t know I’d be here so soon. I was kind of just playing it by ear, going through the motion of this being the last step of rehab more or less be ((inaudible)) and work out whatever I needed to work out. But I am very happy to be at the point where I’m at right now.
Operator: Thank you. The next question is from Brad Graham with Full Court Report in Australia. Please go ahead.
Brad Graham: Paul, Brad from Full Court Report. Congratulations on a ((inaudible)) All Star selection. My question for you is at one point or another during the first half of this season you’ve played four of the NBA’s traditional positions. There seems to be this sort of growing importance on multi-faceted players, ((inaudible)) are moving away from the basket more, guards are sort of taking on sort of more rebounding responsibility. Do you feel like the old walls have come down and that we’re in the sort of era where there’s more positionless play in the NBA?
Paul George: Yes. I mean certainly the game’s changed. It’s really the taller guys and stronger guys are really the ((inaudible)) the guard’s skill set nowadays. The game has definitely transitioned to where you’re playing it further and further away from the basket. It’s just a different game. It’s almost like having four guards now and one big man. It’s just a luxury to have a big guard that can play that forward spot and match up with a traditional big. The game is definitely changing. You know, it’s changing and it’s only going to I think at this rate and training I think it’s only going to transition to more and more bigger guards and more perimeter oriented game.
Operator: Thank you. The next question is from Benny Bonsu with True Africa from the U.K. Please go ahead.
Benny Bonsu: Hi Mr. George. How are you?
Paul George: I’m good.
Benny Bonsu: I just wanted to find out how excited are you to be doing the voice-over for the Cartoon Network’s Bare Bears ahead of the All Stars and what are you most looking forward to in Toronto?
Paul George: I was very excited to be a part of the We Bare Bears little skit we did. First time doing something animated and doing a voice-over for it. It’s something I knew that’d be special ((inaudible)). But it was a lot of fun. I enjoyed it.
What I’m looking forward to in Toronto is just being back in that moment, being back, hanging with the guys, being back playing in front of a lot of fans, playing in front of a great crowd and being in a great environment in Toronto. You just, you cherish those moments and just looking forward to being back to that.
Operator: Thank you. The next question is from Vinay Sundar with Sportskeeda in India. Please go ahead.
Vinay Sundar: Hi Paul. So my question is Indiana have now moved from a more defense-oriented style in the previous seasons to one where it’s a much more fluid style of basketball. As ((inaudible)) pointed out earlier, you moved from the small forward position to the power forward more and you’re also averaging your highest points per game in a season. Do you think the change in style has helped you become a more overall basketball player?
Paul George: I think I have but I haven’t played forward since the beginning of the season. I moved back to the three-spot, but I have become a more complete player playing with a smaller group just because triple-drive game, understanding space and understanding where guys are at on the floor, playing a faster style. So it was a different adjustment that I think added on to me playing traditional big to now learning how to play with ((inaudible)). So I’ve definitely learned a lot.
Operator: Thank you. The next question is from Akinbode Oguntuyi with Sportvision Nigeria. Please go ahead.
Akinbode Oguntuyi: Hello Paul. My colleagues have pointed out that you’re playing better, you’re scoring more points but if you look at Indiana, Indiana were one of the powerhouse teams in the East a couple of years back and then your injury happened. Nowadays, you’re playing better, you’re scoring more points. Do you think you need help in the (team)? Do you think there’s any chance that in their future Indiana will again be in a position to challenge for the title?
Paul George: Can you ask that again? Can you ask that question again?
Akinbode Oguntuyi: Okay Paul. I said that my colleagues have pointed out that you’re playing better, you’re scoring more points but Indiana, before your injury, they were one of the powerhouse teams in East. Now you’re number seven. Do you think you need more help and do you think – how soon do you think Indiana will be back challenging for the title?
Paul George: I think we’re doing a well job. We all here at Indiana think we should be a lot better than what we are, but bigger picture we’ve lost a lot of close games that we possibly could have won. Just, you know, us being a new group and not understanding how to put it together yet and close games. But I don’t think we’re that bad off. Again, we’ve challenged every team. We’ve challenged the best teams. It’s a tough game, but again, it’s just our inexperience with us being together sort of our first year I think is – we took some growing pains and some learning pains but this is the type of group that if we continue to play well, we continue to learn each other, going into playoff time this is one of those teams that really ignites, come together at the right time and learn from our mistakes earlier in the season.
Operator: Thank you. Next is Dario Vismara with NBA Official Magazine in Italy. Please go ahead.
Dario Vismara: Hello Paul. You’re currently seventh in the standing with the Indiana Pacers, just two games behind the third place because this conference is conference crazy this year. Behind Cleveland, what’s your ranking of the teams in the playoffs that you’d like?
Paul George: What’s our – the rankings?
Dario Vismara: Yes.
Paul George: Could you ask that question again?
Dario Vismara: Yes. Behind Cleveland, what’s your ranking of the teams in the playoff race in the Eastern Conference right now?
Paul George: I mean the rankings is what it is. The East is very ((inaudible)) this year. I think we definitely should be one of the top echelon teams in the East. We would have been had we learned how to close games out sufficient where we wanted to be. But the East is competitive this year and every team ends up slotted where they are right now is deserving of that position.
Operator: Thank you. The next question is from David Chinellato with NBA Italy. Please go ahead.
David Chinellato: Paul, what about your team? What do you think it can do ((inaudible))?
Paul George: Ask that again.
David Chinellato: What about your Pacers? What do you think you can do in the East and in the playoffs this season? You kind of – it seems like you have finally found a starting five you like and you can go on the whole season with.
Paul George: Yes. Yes, we have a group that’s playing well. Our starting lineup is playing really well right now and it’s good that we’re getting some experience of chemistry with one another. But again, this team can really make a push late in the season if we continue to grow together. We started out hot and we kind of peaked, we kind of peaked early while the rest of the teams, or the rest of the league just gets better and improving ((inaudible)). For us, it’s just continue to improve, continue the chemistry and, again, we’ll be pretty happy and satisfied at the end of the year.
Mike Perrelli: Guys, we have time for two more questions. Thank you.
Operator: Thank you. Our next question is from (Jan Sude) with L’Equipe in France. Please go ahead.
(Jan Sude): Hello Paul. Ian Mahinmi is having his best season and the first one as a starter. How important is he for the team on and off the court?
Paul George: Ian has been real important for us, especially losing Roy. Ian is the next best thing in terms of ((inaudible)) and protecting the (run) for us. He’s also been great for our young guy Myles Turner to learn from and to set examples for. But this year he’s definitely picked up his play and I think one of the things that makes the game easier for us as far as not just playing a small-ball style and have four guards playing around that can facilitate setting him up with the easy baskets. He’s definitely had a big year for us. He’s definitely a huge piece for us and we’re very happy to have him here.
Operator: Thank you. The next question is from Naveen Ganglani with Rappler.com in the Philippines. Please go ahead.
Naveen Ganglani: Hey Paul, based on the season you’ve had so far do you feel like your name should be mentioned in the MVP conversation more than it is?
Paul George: I mean if we won the games that we should have and we were where we’re supposed to be then yes. But right now I’m not doing a good enough job of finishing games for this team, and you look at the top guys that are performing well and in the MVP conversation, they’re doing an amazing job with their respective teams and that’s the point I’m trying to get to right now. I wouldn’t even be satisfied if I was in the conversations right now.
Mike Perrelli: Awesome. Paul, thank you so much for joining us today. We really appreciate it.Paul George: Yes, no problem. Thanks you guys for asking.
Mike Perrelli: You got it. We’ll see you in Toronto.
Paul George: Okay. Sounds good.