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It’s never too late to learn something, even for an NBA head coach.
So says Billy Donovan of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Last season, his first with Paul George as part of the Thunder, Donovan admits he had to make an adjustment. Namely, to not call plays for George.
“At times he’s like, ‘Stop — just let me get it,’” Donovan said, according to Royce Young of ESPN. “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.”
George said he prefers to allow the game — and his shots — to come to him rather than try to force the action.
“I’ve always been a guy to just let the game come to me. Just play the game,” George said. “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.”
Results indicate Donovan had been a quick study in regard to his second superstar player, who has teamed with Russell Westbrook to turn the Thunder (18-10) into a force of which to be reckoned.
Paul George giving Second Spectrum a run for its money. Says he has a 95% success rate on making shots after crossing someone up.
Where are these stats coming from?
“I watch my highlights. Type in ‘Paul George ankle breakers.’ Usually all of them are makes.” pic.twitter.com/vKFAiAZxYD
— Erik Horne (@ErikHorneOK) December 16, 2018
George is averaging career-highs in points (24.9), rebounds (7.8), assists (4.3), steals (2.1) and blocked shots (0.8) in this, his ninth NBA season. He is shooting 44.3 percent from the floor, 37.7 percent from deep and 82.6 percent from the free-throw line.
“He’s just being himself,” Westbrook said. “He’s aggressive when he plays his pace. He can get any shot he wants, can score with anybody in the league. As you can see, he’s been good all season.”
George chose to return to OKC last summer, signing a four-year, $137 million contract June 30.
The 28-year-old George is also at the fore of Oklahoma City’s top-rated defense this season, tied for second in the NBA in deflections with 3.5 per game.
All the numbers indicate George is playing the best basketball of his career, an assessment of which the five-time All-Star agrees.
“I do, I do,” he said. “I think just the experience and not having to shoulder everything offensively, it’s definitely helped as well.
“But I do feel I’ve grown, and just been seasoned, just knowing how to attack, how to play off certain defenses. And just a different mentality.”