Most NBA analysts and experts fully expected the Miami Heat to run through the 2013 Playoffs and on to their second straight title. But there’s just one holdup so far: the Indiana Pacers are giving the Heat a huge fight and have tied the Eastern Conference Finals series at 2-2.
Pacers forward Paul George is a huge reason behind why Indiana is playing Miami so tough right now. He’s displayed the same all-around game against the Heat that he has throughout the entire 2013 regular season. What’s more is that George has even given LeBron James some difficulties on both ends of the floor. Interestingly enough, none of this may have happened if not for currently injured Pacers star Danny Granger.
Back in 2010, before the NBA Draft, former Indiana Pacers president Larry Bird was trying to decide whether or not he should select George. After all, the Fresno State product was still a relatively unknown entity, despite playing two solid years of college ball. Plus Indiana had the 10th pick in the 2010 Draft and didn’t want to take a leap of faith on an unproven talent.
At the time, Granger was working out with George and had some inside knowledge of the prospect. And the two had a connection since they shared an agent in Aaron Mintz. So Bird called Granger in an effort to find out what his opinion was of George, but hadn’t gotten a call back.
So Mintz phoned Granger to convince his client to talk things over with Bird. As Sports Illustrated journalist Lee Jenkins wrote, the three-way conversation went something like this:
Mintz asked George, “Where do you want to go in the draft tomorrow?”
“Indiana,” George replied.
“Why?” Mintz asked.
“I think I can learn so much from Danny.”
Mintz hung up on George and asked Granger, “Can you call Bird now?”
Despite the fact that they both played the same position, Granger complied with Mintz’s request and gave a “glowing recommendation” of the fellow small forward. He would eventually tell Bird that George would be an All-Star by his third season – something which few other people around the league could’ve predicted.
However, Granger’s bold prophecy didn’t look very accurate in the beginning. As a rookie, George was a reserve who was mainly called upon for his stingy defense. He averaged a modest 20.7 MPG, 7.8 PPG, 1.0 SPG and 3.7 RPG.
George showed some definite improvement in his second season and blossomed in a starting role. He averaged 12.1 PPG, 5.6 RPG and 1.6 SPG while also shotting 38.5% from the 3-point line.
But this year is when George has truly stepped into a starring role. He made the All-Star team on the strength of 17.4 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 4.1 APG and 1.8 SPG. Granted, George has done this in a year where Granger has been sidelined all but five games with an injury; however, he’s still turned in a very impressive season.
And no matter how the current series against the Heat finishes out, the Pacers definitely have to be happy about Danny Granger making that phone call before the 2010 Draft.