If any of those higher-ups had bothered asking George about his potential back then, he could've flown off the board as fast as he would in a redraft today.
Greatness was in his future. He could see it all along.
"I did expect it," he said, via Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. "I just didn't expect it to come around this fast."
His superstar ascent is perhaps best measured in light years. He's gone from part-time contributor to complementary piece to franchise centerpiece in a blink of an eye.
|Paul George's Rapid Rise to Superstardom|
"He's not the chosen one," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said, via Zillgitt. "He's just a guy who has ability. He's got—even more than ability and it's so glaring to everybody—he's got drive...You're dealing with a guy who's doing what he's doing on less than a year's experience as the guy, and it's pretty remarkable."
If being "the guy" feels at all foreign to him, it'd be hard for an outsider to tell.
Besides his soaring stat sheets, he's also helped carry the Pacers to the Eastern Conference's best record (40-12) and the NBA's best net rating (plus-8.6 points per 100 possessions). He'll make his second All-Star appearance over the weekend, his first as a starter selected by fans.
He's a self-made superstar, but he did get an unlikely assist in his climb from the league's "Chosen One," LeBron James. George followed up his breakout 2012-13 campaign with a strong showing against James' Miami Heat in the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals, averaging 19.4 points on .475/.441/.771 shooting along with 6.0 rebounds and 5.1 assists in the series.
The regular season seemed to ignite his All-Star light bulb, but holding court with the King was perhaps his greatest "Aha!" moment on the hardwood.
"After the season last year and the postseason against Miami, I just felt like I was ready to take that jump," he said, via Zillgitt.
That jump has been nothing short of incredible. Fans aren't the only ones realizing how dominant Indiana's swingman has become:
Clearly, he's carved himself a place near the top of the NBA's pecking order. As far as he's concerned, this is only the beginning.
"For me, it's about building a legacy," he said, via Zillgitt. "I feel like I can be one of the best players in this league and one of the best players to play this game as far as both sides of the floor."
Those are some lofty aspirations, but it's hard putting anything past the Circle City's miracle man.
His first test will be showing some elite-level recovery. He's not exactly entering the All-Star break on a high note (16.5 points on .326/.276/.787 over his last 10 games, 23.6 points on .464/.391/.869 shooting in his first 42 games).
After that, he may need another grand stage to add some validity to his claim. A postseason rematch with Miami, perhaps?
"To be honest, I wish we could speed it up to that," he said.
With two championship contenders standing tall above the rest of the injury-riddled East, I think we might all share his dream.
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