I caught up with Indiana Pacers All-Star guard Paul George after a surprisingly intense and competitive preseason opener against the Chicago Bulls, which marked the return of Derrick Rose as well as teammate Danny Granger from knee injuries that sidelined both stars last season.
Fresh from inking a 5-year, $90 million dollar extension during the offseason, George scored 14 points on 5-9 shooting in 18 minutes of action, but also fouled out in the Pacers 76-82 loss.
With their first preseason game out of the way, the Pacers’ next order of business is to fly across the other side of the globe for a couple of games against the Houston Rockets in Asia, with their first stop being Manila on October 10 as part of the NBA’s Global Games.
It’s a trip, George and his teammates have been looking forward to making.
“I’m excited. It’s my first time (going to) the Philippines, but I’ve been down in Asia before and I had a blast,” the 6-9 swingman told NBA Philippines after the game. “People there are amazing. The culture there is amazing, so I’m looking forward to it,” George added.
George was in China together with the likes of LeBron James and Kevin Durant during last year’s offseason as part of a Nike promotional tour, which opened his eyes on basketball’s popularity in the region.
“It’s something you got to experience firsthand. They really love the sport, if not as much as we do, even more,” George shared. “It’s crazy and there’s a lot of talent there. They really understand the game in Asia.”
Having lived in the Southern California area before where George learned and developed his game and where there’s a huge Filipino-American community as well, I asked the former Fresno State standout if he’s had any encounters playing against Filipinos growing up.
“I haven’t. Where I grew up, me to be honest, I never really ran into a Filipino player, it’s different for me, but being a spectator there, they’re real physical players and that’s how I play the game so I’m big fan of how they play,” George replied.
George also sent out a message to all the Filipino fans who have been eagerly waiting for the NBA’s first ever preseason game in the country.
“I wish they come out and watch the game. I’m excited to be there as well as my teammates. I want them to help me enjoy it and when I get there they got to tell me where the spots are that I need to be.”
Asked if he plans to show off some of his acrobatic dunks similar to his “clockwise 360, between-the-legs, windmill dunk from the left wing” last year that brought the house down in Shanghai and had LeBron pulling his headband in amazement, George promised to impress.
“I’m going to give them a show. It’d be fun to have them out there and it’s their first time seeing us, or me in person, so I want to leave a good impression.”
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