On a Tuesday where the Indiana Pacers introduced three new players in shooting guard Monta Ellis, center Jordan Hill and forward Chase Budinger, Bird met with reporters to discuss the team’s shift in philosophy.”
Specifically, the Pacers’ president made headlines in his response to George, a two-time All-Star who has shifted from small forward to shooting guard in the past, making the suggestion he would play just a few minutes at the position.
"Well, he don't make the decisions around here," Bird said. "I (played power forward). I loved it after I did it. I just think offensively it's going to be one of the greatest feelings he's ever had. I'm not going to get in a battle with Paul George on where he wants to play. He's a basketball player. He can play any position you put him out there.”
It’s not that Bird is stubborn about trying to force his best player into a position that George might not be thrilled about. Bird has the utmost confidence in George’s ability as a scorer and defender and sees a faster lineup accentuating his talents, regardless of position.
George, 25, missed most of last season after suffering a broken leg in an August Team USA workout in Las Vegas. Head coach Frank Vogel spoke recently about how the star player has regained his health and should be ready to go for next season.
The Pacers were the Eastern Conference’s top seed two seasons ago with a blend of inside strength and perimeter scoring. But the NBA landscape has changed to “small ball,” and Bird sees the need to adjust to score more.
This shift was aided by forward David West opting out of the last year of his contract, then center Roy Hibbert was dealt to the Los Angeles Lakers for a future second-round draft pick. That freed up $28.1 million in salary.
“I want to run a little bit more,” Bird said. “What I really mean when I say that is I want to score about six to eight more points per game.”
The Pacers averaged 97.3 points last season, which ranked 24th.
About George, Bird also said, “I just told him how I think he'll embrace the opportunity. I know what it did to my career. I always wanted to get down there and bang with the guys instead of just chasing guys around the perimeter. I think with him coming off this injury, it's a good opportunity. He'll guard some threes but he won't have to do it all the time. It gives him a year to get healthier and stronger, and I think it'll be a big plus for him and our team.”
George plays at 6-9 and 220, but Bird isn’t concerned about if the star player has the size and strength to bang inside. Bird, an NBA Hall of Famer, played the position at 6-9 and 220.
“(The weight differential) is overrated,” Bird said. “You go through all the different teams, it's not as bad as you think it is. LeBron (James) does it all the time.”
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.