MANILA, Philippines – The 2013 NBA Playoffs breakout star Paul George marvels at the Filipinos’ passion for basketball.
The whole Eastern Conference Finalist Indiana Pacers squad is part of the historic NBA Global Games Tour that will feature the first pre-season game in the Philippines against the Houston Rockets at the MOA Arena on Thursday.
George shared his thoughts on the Philippines after arriving in the country Monday following a long 18-hour flight from the United States.
"It means a lot. It’s great that the NBA has brought the basketball to this beautiful country. It's a phenomenal country," said George, the 2013 Most Improved Player.
"Riding from the airport, we saw a lot of basketball courts on our way to the hotel. For us to be the first ones to play here, it’s really special," he added.
The fourth-year player is coming off a career year that saw him getting selected to the All-NBA Third Team, All-NBA Defensive Second team and his first All-Star appearance netting him a 5-year $90 million contract with the Pacers.
Despite being financially secured, the Fresno State product said he is hungry to be even better this season. He’s not afraid of the expectations a big contract warrants.
"I am ready for the expectations. I'll say this every time, pressure builds character. I'm someone who always wants to be better and the expectations will only want to make me better as a player," said the 6'9 swingman.
One of George’s goals this year is to win the Defensive Player of the Year award.
"It’s one of my goals when it's all said and done and I'm hanging up my sneakers, if not having one, I want a couple of Defensive Player of the Year awards. I feel like I just have the capability of guarding guys," said George.
The much anticipated return of former all-star Danny Granger is a lingering question for the Pacers after their successful season without their former star player. But George quickly dropped the notion of Granger’s return as something that could mess up their chemistry.
"Danny is much more of a scorer. He is just a straight flat out scorer and I'm more of a facilitator but I will be ready if I need to score, I will be aggressive," said George.
"He is another leader for us. He is someone that we missed. He takes a lot of pressure off myself, Roy Hibbert and David West," he added.