Paul George Asked Billy Donovan to Stop Running Plays for Him Last Season

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistDecember 14, 2018

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MARCH 30: Paul George #13 and Head Coach Billy Donovan of the Oklahoma City Thunder talk during the game against the Denver Nuggets on March 30, 2018 at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images)
Layne Murdoch/Getty Images

As Paul George worked his way into the Oklahoma City Thunder's system last season, head coach Billy Donovan made a point to call plays for his new star player.

But Donovan would quickly learn to let George just do his thing on the court.

"I've always been a guy to just let the game come to me," George told ESPN's Royce Young. "Just play the game. If it's a shot for me, if I can make a play, create for someone else, I'll do that. A lot of times you run a play, everybody's watching, everybody's locked in, everybody's pulling over and it just makes the game tougher for me.

"I like it when I can kind of manipulate and be on attack mode where they don't know what to do, as opposed to a play other teams [can] scout."

That meant there was an adjustment for the coach.

"At times he's like, 'Stop—just let me get it,'" Donovan said, per Young. "I had to learn him. I can watch things on film and say, 'Oh, that's a good play and he made that shot, let's run that,' but there's a lot more to it than that."

Ultimately, though, it was an approach that allowed the five-time All-Star to excel.

While playing alongside the then-reigning NBA MVP Russell Westbrook and 10-time All-Star Carmelo Anthony, George averaged 21.9 points on 43 percent shooting, including 40.1 percent from beyond the arc. All of those numbers were among the best of his career.

And now that he has a year of experience in OKC under his belt, he has been even better. The ninth-year veteran is averaging career-highs in scoring (24.3 points per game), rebounding (7.9) and assists (4.3).

George's strong season was highlighted by a 47-point performance on Dec. 5:

His 25-point outburst in the fourth quarter was the perfect example of the Thunder star letting the game come to him.

While George acknowledged he wouldn't mind winning an MVP award, he made it clear that his only focus is playing hard on both ends of the court.

"I know who I am. [Perception] doesn't make me who I am," George said. "I just try to step on that floor and try to play as hard as I can. I have a goal to be the best player every time I touch that floor. Just be the best me. ... My job is just to give everything that I have, play as hard as I can, and just try to win as much as possible."

Thus far, George's strong play has helped Oklahoma City get off to a 17-9 start, good for the third-best record in the West, just a half-game back of the top spot.

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