Paul George of the Indiana Pacers has quickly become one of the big-name players in the NBA. Unfortunately, the faster a star rises to prominence on the court, the more likely controversy will follow him off of it.
George was reportedly "catfished" into sending inappropriate photos of himself to another man, according to Simone Bridges of Black Sports Online. Soon after Bridges' report broke, however, George refuted the claim, according to Candace Buckner of The Indianapolis Star.
Buckner shared some of the quotes from the star swingman on Twitter:
#Pacers Paul George said he wasn't "catfished" into sending photos of himself to a man. Said the story is untrue. More coming soon.— Candace Buckner (@CandaceDBuckner) March 24, 2014
Paul George on "untrue" story: "As far as me being catfished. I know the girl that sent the pictures out. It wasn’t a catfish story…"— Candace Buckner (@CandaceDBuckner) March 24, 2014
Paul George on dealing with recent off-the-court distraction: "I’m good. A lot of it just stuff trying to bring me down. I’m good with it...— Candace Buckner (@CandaceDBuckner) March 24, 2014
While George is not denying the fact that he was involved in any sort of scandal, his play on the court has certainly suffered as of late. In the team's last three games, George has averaged 11.7 points while shooting 22.5 percent from the field, well below his season averages of 21.8 and 43.0, respectively.
During that stretch, Indiana has gone 1-2, suffering losses to the struggling New York Knicks and Memphis Grizzlies. Against the Grizzlies, George failed to reach double-digits for just the third team all season, and the Pacers totaled a season-low 71 points.
David West, one of Indiana's veteran leaders, spoke with Buckner about the fourth-year player needing to keep his personal life off the court:
Guys have to be able to keep their personal life that—as personal. A lot of that comes with just maturity and understanding any little thing can derail what you're trying to accomplish on the floor. We just got to continue to grow.
Guys have to continue to be in about this situation and when you make mistakes on the floor, own up to them. When you make mistakes off the floor, own up to them. When you're not playing well, own up to it. And when we're playing well and competing at a high level, we understand that we still got work to do. All of that kinda goes to that same mix, just maximizing what we've got going on.
While recent results show he hasn't played well, Zach Harper of CBS Sports notes that the trend of poor shooting stretches back to the beginning of the year:
Since January 1st: Ricky Rubio is shooting 40.5% from the field. Paul George is shooting 40.4%. Goodnight.— Zach Harper (@talkhoops) March 20, 2014
Michael Grady of 1070 The Fan questioned whether George's issues outside of the game are the cause:
Do you think "off the court" decisions are affecting Paul George's play?— Michael Grady (@Grady) March 24, 2014
Whether or not the young star's alleged off-the-court drama is affecting his production, responding to these reports head-on should help George focus on the task at hand—helping the Pacers hold onto the top seed in the East.
With a slate of matchups coming up against the Chicago Bulls, Miami Heat and Washington Wizards—three teams jockeying for position in the conference standings—Indiana better hope that's the case. While the Heat are also floundering, the Pacers will need George to be at the top of his game to stave off the reigning champs down the stretch.
Follow R. Cory Smith on Twitter.