Photo by Josh Albelda/Rappler
MANILA, Philippines – Indiana Pacers forward Paul George is currently in the Philippines to reveal the 24 participants of Nike Philippines' basketball documentary Rise, which aims to discover and highlight talented basketball players around the country.
A young player's need for mentorship is something George can identify with. Speaking to the media at the House of Rise in Mandaluyong City on Monday, July 20, George revealed how it was Danny Granger - who was then the player the Indianapolis-based club had invested many of its hopes in - who looked after George.
While the past few years have seen a rise in the marketing stock and on court performance of Indiana Pacers star Paul George, the exact opposite can be said about Danny Granger, who once upon a time was the face of the famous NBA franchise.
Discounting a lost 2014-2015 NBA season due to a broken leg injury, George has climbed the ranks of the best players in the NBA since being drafted in 2010 and is regarded as someone who will be a force to be reckoned with on both sides of the basketball floor over the next few years as he molds into his prime form.
For Granger, 32, it’s a more tragic story. Since missing most of the 2012-2013 NBA season with a knee injury, the once dynamic and explosive scorer has seen his performance plummet.
After getting traded by the Pacers in February 2014, the New Orleans native has been either dealt to another team or signed as a free agent by 5 more franchises.
Currently with the Detroit Pistons - and his roster spot for the upcoming NBA season unassured - Granger hasn’t averaged double-digit scoring numbers since putting up 18.7 points to go with 5 rebounds a contest in the 2011-2012 NBA season.
But even with how different their paths have turned out as of late, George, 25, who early in his career was a protege of Granger, still values his former mentor as a “brother.”
“Well, me and Danny have an unbelievable bond,” George said.
"It was more than teammates. I look at Danny as a big brother and a mentor for me. So, he’s been real instrumental with my whole progress, and elevating to the level I am now.”
That level now for George, when healthy, means 21.7 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.9 steals a game - his numbers in the 2013-2014 NBA season.
“I’ve seen him work hard," George added about Granger. "I’ve seen him play at the highest level, night in night out, putting up 30, 40 points. It taught me a lot. It really did.”
Although it's a topic still debated by some fans of the Pacers and NBA analysts, George arguably wouldn’t have been the big-time star he is today if not for Granger going down with injury.
In Granger’s last healthy season with the Pacers (2011-2012), George averaged just 12.1 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 2.4 assists in 29.7 minutes a game. The following season with Granger mostly sidelined, those numbers rocketed to 17.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 4.1 assists in 37.6 minutes a game, with George winning the NBA’s Most Improved Player of the Year award.
“When he went down, he was still in my corner to teach me and to help me and it really helped. And I think that was the reason why - I wouldn’t say an easy transition - but it was an easier transition,” George said about Granger.
“He’s been everything for me. So I felt like I was ready. I felt like I was ready to take on that task and, you know, I made the most of it.”
During the press conference, George also talked about how he looks forward to carrying the Pacers on his back.
With veteran vocal leader David West signing with the San Antonio Spurs and big man Roy Hibbert traded to the Los Angeles Lakers this past offseason, the two-time NBA All-Star is expected to be even more of a face of the franchise.
“It’s the responsibility I want,” he said about the topic. “I love being our go-to-player. I love being our leader, and I love whether we win or lose, I love having that pressure. If we lose, I love not being able to finish a game for us, because that drives me, that keeps me in the gym.”
George continued: "That keeps me working hard. So I love it. I love stepping on to the scene and being the face of a great organization, and aspiring young players.”
George is expected to stay in Manila until Tuesday, July 21.