Indiana Pacers small forward Paul George played in his native California Monday night, and found some redemption against the Warriors. Before the game, KMPH FOX 26 Sports Reporter Nick King talked to the former Fresno State Bulldog about a variety of topics.
Nick: Paul, do you get many friends and family, being back in California - or is it for me LA than here?
Paul: I mean I get love pretty much everywhere in California. You know, I got a lot of friends coming to this game tonight. Friends from...guys that I went to school with, you know, bringing their family to come support me, so, I mean it's pretty much love all over in California.
Nick: Do you remember the last time you guys played here?
Paul: Yeah, I do. I remember a lot of it. And there wasn't much to remember. I had a tough game here, didn't score, I think probably one of my worst in my career as far as not putting the ball in the basket. So, gotta redeem myself tonight.
Nick: Do you remember after that game - the plane ride home, everything about that night - is that one of your lowest moments?
Paul: Ummm. I mean, it was a changing moment. It really made me change up everything that I was doing to prepare for games. My whole mindset now is to make sure I'm ready, make sure I got enough shots, making sure I'm putting myself in a position to be ready. So, it was a changing point in my career, where I decided to switch out my routine.
Nick: Now just a little more than a year later, you're second in the Eastern Conference in All-Star votes, third overall...you have more votes than Kobe. Could you have imagined that a year ago? That night, after that game?
Paul: No, not really. Not really. but I know the work that I put in to get here. And that's really been the key for me, is continuing to want to be better, continuing to stay in the gym, just being a student of the game. I felt like if I did all those things, and remained being who I am, at some point I would get to here.
Nick: What's the biggest difference between you now and the college days at Fresno State?
Paul: Well I think I know me. I know myself a little bit, a little bit more now. I kind of just feel like I grew into my game, whereas in college I was still learning, still trying things out, still trying to figure what works and doesn't work. And I think now I have an understanding of what works and what doesn't work, and I have a full understanding of what I can do on the basketball court.
Nick: You sound like you've learned a lot - a wise, old man - and you're still what, 23?
Paul: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Ha.
Nick: Talking to Derek Carr, he said you guys used to run a little bit, 2-on-2, with people back at school. Is that true?
Paul: Yeah. That was, uh...Derek Carr is like my little brother, man. We used to kick it a lot at Fresno State, we used to play a lot of pickup ball together, so that's my guy.
Nick: How was his game?
Paul: His game is good, man. … I was one of his biggest supporters this year, I thought he should have been well deserving of the Heisman. And whatever route he decides to do, hopefully he's taking that step to the next level - talking to him I think he is, and I think he's getting ready for it - but I think he's got a huge change of being something special at the next level, and his work ethic is going to put him at the top.
Nick: Not just you, but you guys as a team, what you've been doing this year, it seems like you're being talked about a lot more, all over the country. What's that been like dealing with that, on a personal level, and as a team, too?
Paul: It's great. It's great, because I feel like we've been battling, trying to get respect, and you know, earn our respect by the way we've been playing. And for teams - and not only teams, but the world - to start to take notice of what we're doing here, it's special. It's special, everyone in this locker room and on our team, in our organization, is proud of what we've put together and assembled, and happy with what we're doing.
Nick: I know you guys are fully committed to getting that home court - I've heard you talk about it a couple of times, do you think that's something that can really make a difference if you get back to the Eastern Conference Finals?
Paul: We do. The simple fact alone, we feel like we play great ball at home. We understand we're going to have to play on the road, we're going to have to win on the road, and we understand that having home court doesn't guarantee we're going to win it all, but we like our chances, having home court and playing on our floor in a seven game series.
Nick: And I know that you were invited to participate in a couple of the other things - the slam dunk, the three point contest - in addition to the fact that you'll be a starter...where are you with that - are you happy just to play in the game, or do you want to do something else?
Paul: Ummm. I'm open. I'm open. It's still early right now, still want to figure out what all I want to do All-Star weekend. But I'm open to everything, haven't officially turned down anything, but I do plan on having a fun All-Star weekend.
Nick: What was that experience like last year, being in the game?
Paul: It was fun. You know it's crazy having...you know, being around guys like KG, who was on his like 17th or 16th All-Star game...and just talking to him, being around him, having that experience with him, was something that I'll cherish from my first time being there. And you know, just having all the celebrities courtside, all the fans, you know it was surreal, it was a surreal moment.