(This is Justin Ochoa’s first contribution to 8p9s. We hope he will be around for a long time, so please give him a warm welcome and a follow on Twitter @Justin_M_Ochoa — JW)
Paul George has had an unfortunate span of luck this Summer. Soon after the George and the Indiana Pacers were booted from the playoffs, he went down with one of the most gruesome leg injuries I’ve ever seen.
Not too long after his injury, he made the announcement to change his jersey number from 24 to 13, birthing his new alter ego, Young Trece. Trece means 13 in Spanish, for those who can only count to diez en Español — and also makes the moniker sound a lot like Young Tracy, a player, in McGrady, that PG has drawn comparisons to.
As a result of this number change, he had to fork over some cash and purchase the remaining stock of No. 24 jerseys in the Indiana Pacers merchandise shop. I’d imagine that’s not an ideal purchase for PG, but then again, neither is a Ferrari when you have a full leg cast.
When you call him Young Trece, put the emphasis on young, because it’s obvious that he still has so much to learn about be a consummate professional. George recently caused quite the stir when he made some questionable comments regarding the Ray Rice domestic violence situation.
This will be deleted by noon pic.twitter.com/zDa4jwGRcm
— Justin Ochoa (@Justin_M_Ochoa) September 11, 2014
You can’t stay mad at Paul George for long, though. He’s a young player with so much potential and so much he can still learn on and off the court. In the learning process, making mistakes is half the fun. It’s how you better yourself.
One thing I’ve learned is that you have to have a glass half full attitude after things don’t go your way. I’m sure Paul George has adopted this attitude by now and adjusted his point of view on a lot of things.
If he’s the type of person I believe him to be, he’s probably thinking of ways to use his rehabilitation process to focus on weaker parts of his game. If he’s not, I’ll do it for him.
These three aspects of his game can be dramatically improved during his recovery process and bring him to the next level as a superstar in the NBA. He can do all this without having to move that injured leg of his.
It can be painful to watch Paul George dribble. He made it this far with his dribbling skill set, but I believe his handle is incredibly unimpressive compared to other players of his caliber.
Over the years I’ve noticed that he has a tendency to “over-dribble,” meaning he rarely sticks with his first move. He’ll make a move, then another, then add one more, then maybe even another. By the time he’s done with what he thinks is a crossover, the defender has recovered from the first move — or has the ball.
Sometimes he handles are so bad, they’re great. Check out this clip against the Heat showcasing an unreal combination of skill, luck, and confusion with the ball. Sure, it went in but he made it 20 times harder than it needed to be and probably should have passed it on two different occasions.
I’m not here to bash PG, though. I love his game, even his flawed ability to handle the rock. But while he’s recovering I’d love to see him make a conscious effort towards improving his dribbling.
Keep in mind that I’m not nagging at his turnover ratio. He’s never averaged more than 3 turnovers per game in a season, although he’s come close. When you’re a playmaker and have the ball as much as Paul George does, turnovers will happen. I get that. I’m more concerned with the actual dribbling: mechanics, repertoire of moves, pick and roll angles, and the like.
Maybe he can follow Pat the Roc on Instagram and learn some drills? He should have the ball in his hands 24/7 during this recovery process and pretty much make it an extension of his hand. He can do plenty of sitting or stationary drills until he gets mobility back, then progress from there.
Decision Making (on and off court)
I don’t want to go into all of the personal details, but Paul George has had a few off-court distractions thus far in his young career. He can definitely improve on his decision making ability, both on and off the court.
Most recently and as I mentioned before, Young Trece made some ridiculous comments about the Ray Rice domestic violence case. He went from getting #PrayForPaul tweets to being considered a scumbag. In my opinion, his comments were entirely off base, inappropriate and embarrassing.
He quickly realized the magnitude of the mistake he made and apologized for his comments, as did the Indiana Pacers. Does is make it right? No. Does it show maturity? Absolutely. Everyone makes mistakes, but it’s how you bounce back from those mistakes that displays your true character.
I think George really did learn from this and will now think before he speaks, tweets and posts. He won’t be back in action for a full season, meaning he’ll have plenty of time for social media. Let’s see if he has any more controversial flare ups or if he truly did learn from his mistake.
Other than those distractions, Paul George has had a relatively quiet career off the court. Even when you look at his off-court issues, they’re harmless compared to some of the other things going on in sports right now. He’s doing better than a lot of guys, and surely doing better than I would be if I was his age with his money and his talent.
Another form of decision making that I expect him to improve on is his on-court decision making.
His basketball IQ is already very high, and he usually makes smart plays, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. The amount of spare time he’s going to have during this recovery could be used to study film and become a student of the game. I’d love to see him take a Peyton Manning approach to studying the game.
Maybe he could even reach out to P. Money and get some tips, Papa John could probably link them up.
That Papa John’s commercial made me kind of hungry, which is exactly how Paul George should be feeling until he steps back onto the NBA court. Hunger for a championship is the final thing he can improve during his time away from the game and will happen naturally. He’s already a tenacious competitor and has the heart to compete, but being away from the NBA for as long as he’s going to be will create a burning desire for championships inside of him.
As long as the recovery and rehab process goes smoothly, there is not a single doubt in my mind that George will come back stronger and hungrier.
I’m looking forward to following Young Trece on his road to recovery, hoping Nike starts a huge campaign when the time is right. Similar to what Adidas did (twice?) for Derrick Rose. Before his injury, it looked like he was on the brink of a new Nike signature shoe series, so maybe that release will be packaged with his return.
As for now, the Pacers still have a solid squad. Indiana may not be title contenders anymore, but they’re going to be in the playoff conversation next Spring. If the Pacers play their cards right in his absence, they could get Paul George back and be better than they were before.