It’s only been three years since the Indiana Pacers finished the regular season with the best record in the East, and Paul George believes his team is capable of doing so once again in 2017.
He also believes he’s capable of handling LeBron James in an individual matchup.
The two had some epic playoff battles before George went down with a broken leg injury in a 2014 USA Basketball exhibition, and with a retooled roster and a new head coach, George is eager to get back to that level now that a new season is upon us.
“Honestly, I look at us challenging them. I’ve been in the East and I’ve been No. 1 with LeBron being on a team,” George told Yahoo’s Michael Lee, pointing out how Indiana finished ahead of LeBron’s Miami Heat in the standings in 2014.
“I’ve always matched up with him like, ‘I know he can do this, I know he can do that.’ Not in an awe fashion, but it’s more so, ‘I’m not supposed to win these games. This is supposed to be the best dude in the NBA. I’m trying to challenge him. I know what I’m up against.’ Now it’s, ‘I’m ready. I’m ready for you. I’m a veteran. I know you, you know me. Let’s meet here, let’s get this job done.’ I’m prepared. I’ve had time to figure this out. I’ve had time to lick my wounds. I’m ready.”
George is certainly capable of backing up these words, and it’s not hard to envision the Pacers becoming a top-four team in the East.
Jeff Teague and Al Jefferson were the summer’s splashy additions, and after averaging a career-best 23.1 points to go along with seven rebounds and 4.1 assists (while averaging 34.8 minutes and appearing in all but one regular season contest), George may be primed to make a leap this season.
Mentally, he’s already there.