The Pulse of the NBA

By Andy Roth
Contributing Editor

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    New York, NY (Sports Network) - By George, Indiana looks like it has a rising star on its hands, while it may take a "Miracle on 34th Street" for the Knicks to make the playoffs. I've got those stories and more in my latest take on the NBA.


    The Pacers are starting to open up a lot of eyes around the NBA and none more recently among the players than second-year shooting guard Paul George. Drafted 10th overall in 2010 out of Fresno State, George reminds me a little of Scottie Pippen and Tracy McGrady with his length and athleticism.

    The Pacers have a terrific young nucleus of talent with George, Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert and Darren Collison, but don't be surprised if George turns out to be the most talented player among the group.

    He put on a terrific display of his full skill set in front of a national TV audience last Friday in Dallas as the Pacers beat the defending champs 98-87. George hit seven three-pointers and finished with a career-high 30 points, but also contributed big in other ways, as he racked up nine rebounds, five steals and five assists with no turnovers.

    "He's oozing confidence, as is our whole team," said coach Frank Vogel about George after the game. "The kid is good at pretty much everything. He's pure and he's refreshing to coach. He's just got a pure desire to be great and it's showing up on the court."

    Teammate David West can't contain his enthusiasm when he talks about George's potential. "Paul's got a chance to be a really good ball player -- beyond really good," said West, a two-time All-Star. "He doesn't know how really dominant he could be. He's got such great size at the 'two-guard' position, it's almost like Kevin Durant and the size he has at the small forward position. To be a 6-foot-8 two-guard who can shoot it, bring it down the floor, handle it, is as athletic as anybody in the league -- and he's really just learning how to play."

    While George's offensive display against the Mavs really grabbed the headlines, it's his play at the other end of the floor that is just as exciting for his coach. At times Vogel will put George on the opposing team's point guard in the final minutes of a game, and he's shown the ability to stay in front of them and bother them with his length.

    "When [Tracy] McGrady was young, he played no defense, and not only wasn't he interested, but he wasn't capable," said Vogel. "Paul has learned how to use his length to space guys like Derrick Rose or Chris Paul. We said, 'Pressure but space, and make them shoot jumpers over your length. Learn that and you can become a good ball-containment guy."

    "The thing about [Paul] is he's got a knack for anticipating on the level of Allen Iverson and Eddie Jones -- two great steals guys who know how to play the passing lanes. [Paul] gambles a little too much and that hurts you sometimes, but he led our team last year and he leads us this year in deflections per minute, and he has a knack for blocking shots. What he brings to the defensive table is just as impressive as what he brings offensively, which is not the case in most guys like him that are young, second-year guys with offensive skills."

    But Vogel is equally impressed with how much his second-year shooting guard brings to the table on the offensive end. "You go through the offensive skills you get from him," said Vogel, where you can post, you can use pick-and-rolls, you can handle, you're good in the open court, you can shoot the three. He's probably our most willing passer -- he doesn't force stuff a lot, and he's got the size to see over the defense. On the passes that a lot of guards having trouble seeing over big men, he's able to make these passes maybe better than anyone on our team."

    As I mentioned earlier, George was the 10th overall pick in 2010, and I have to believe a number of GM's have to be kicking themselves for passing on him, as the likes of Wesley Johnson, Ekpe Udoh, Al-Farouq Aminu and Gordon Hayward were selected ahead of George.


    It took a shocking and unexpected career night from seldom used point guard Jeremy Lin (25 points) for the Knicks to rally to beat the Nets Saturday at the Garden for only their third win in 15 games. Mike D'Antoni's team may need a lot more miracles like that if they even hope to qualify for the playoffs. That's how bad the Knicks look. They're 9-15, ranking them 10th in the Eastern Conference, which means they're currently on the outside looking in as far as the playoff picture is concerned.

    D'Antoni and the rest of New York City are waiting with bated breath for the return of Baron Davis, who now has to be looked upon as the Knicks' savior at this point. Without any quality point guard play, I don't see this team turning around a very bad situation. And even if Davis plays well, and that is a very big if, it may not be enough to get this team into the post season.

    What may be even more startling than the Knicks' horrendous play, is that less than a week ago, when the team had dropped nine of ten games, Tyson Chandler said they were still capable of winning a championship this year. I assumed he meant the D-League, but apparently was wrong.

    "In all honestly, I still feel like this is a team that can win a championship. I feel like we definitely have the pieces," said Chandler. "I feel like we haven't come together yet. It's a process... I feel like guys are going to have to step up and play roles that they are not necessarily used to. We get everybody back healthy, we get everybody on the floor at one time, then we'll see what we got."

    It seems to me that the Knicks are lacking in so many areas, that Baron Davis will not be the cure for their multitude of ailments.


    Kobe Bryant recently said that given all the off-season roster changes, the Lakers shouldn't expect to have one of the top seeds in the Western Conference. "Because of the changes in the players and so forth, you just can't come out of the gates and fight for a No.1 seed or a No.2 seed," said Bryant . "That's just not realistic, but we want to build and get better and go into the playoffs with momentum."

    Considering the Lakers' problems on the road this season (3-8), I think Bryant is being a little nonchalant about the prospects of possibly not having the home court advantage throughout the playoffs. And he's also assuming that they'll be in the playoffs, which is not a lock at this point. The Lakers' 14-10 record has them tied with the Trailblazers for the sixth and seventh spot in the Western Conference, and there are four teams in very close striking distance with the Mavericks just a 1/2 game back, the Rockets one- game behind, and the Grizzlies and Timberwolves two games back.

    With the Lakers lack of depth, any significant injury to either Bryant, Andrew Bynum or Pau Gasol would likely result in them being spectators come May.

    Andy Roth covered the Knicks for NBC Radio and AP Radio for eleven years and was an NBA Columnist for Celtics Pride Magazine for two years. He's covered many of the major sporting events, including the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals, U.S. Open Tennis and Golf.

    Copyright 2012

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