The Associated Press
INDIANAPOLIS — Pacers forward Paul George spent the past summer turning himself into a better player.
Now he’s planning to dedicate himself to becoming the NBA’s best all-around player.
A few minutes after accepting the league’s Most Improved Player Award, the 6-foot-9 swingman promised to work even harder to attain the biggest rewards of all — an NBA title and perhaps an MVP.
“I think I can play at an MVP level. I think that’s very much within reach,” George said Tuesday. “For me, it’s all about being consistent and having that aggressive mindset.”
George has already emerged as one of the league’s top young players, which explains his runaway victory in the balloting. He received 52 of 120 first-place votes and 311 points, more than double the total of New Orleans’ Greivis Vasquez, who had 13 first-place votes and 146 points. Milwaukee’s Larry Sanders was third with 141 points and was one of three players to receive 10 first-place votes.
As part of the award, a 2012 Kia Sorrento will be donated to the Hawthorne Community Center, George’s hand-picked charity.
George is also expected to be one of the top vote-getters for the Defensive Player of the Year Award, an honor coach Frank Vogel lobbied hard for Tuesday.
The question is whether George has what it takes to challenge for the league’s top individual honor.
“With the physical talent he has, with the drive he has, there’s no ceiling for him,” Vogel said.
If 2012-13 proved anything, it’s that George is a man of his word.
Before leaving town after last season’s Eastern Conference semifinal loss to LeBron James and eventual champion Miami, George walked into Vogel’s office and promised to come back with a more aggressive mindset and as a more versatile scorer.
James’ guidance helped him reach those goals.
The two worked out together in Las Vegas as the U.S. team prepared for the Olympics, but all the while George was watching and learning from the best — not just James.
“It was huge. Me, growing up, idolizing guys like Kobe, watching his whole regimen, watching what time he got up to work out, watching what he was putting in his body,” George said. “The younger guys, we was totally the opposite, so I had to kind of take notes and follow what they were doing.”
The results impressed his teammates, coaches and many around the league.
George averaged 17.4 points and 7.6 rebounds this season, both career highs, and was the only player in the league with at least 140 steals and 50 blocks. He earned his first All-Star appearance.