(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony are the headliners on Team USA, but Paul George has arguably been the best all-around player for the U.S. at the Rio Games.
George has been Mr. Everything for the gold-medal favorites, doing whatever the team needs in any given moment.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski says George played his best game during the 105-78 rout of Argentina on Wednesday. His pressure defense on the perimeter immediately forced the Argentines into turnovers and provided a spark for the U.S., which was down 10 in the first quarter.
“Paul’s one of the best players in the league and one of the outstanding defensive players,” Krzyzewski said after practice Thursday. “Before offensively, he turned it on defensively.
“The pressure he exerted forced their offense a little bit further out on the court and made it less efficient. He was very, very good.”
The Indiana Pacers All-Star has guarded four positions. Though he’s only started two games, George is third in scoring (12.5 per game), tied for third in rebounds (4.7) and holds at least a share of the team-high in blocks and steals.
“I’m a person that loves to just get lost into a game,” George said. “Not thinking about much. Just whatever happens on that court, happens. That’s when I get the best results.”
Timberwolves coach and Team USA assistant Tom Thibodeau explained that George allows the team the freedom to run multiple defensive schemes. It can switch easier and trap more with his 6-foot-9, mobile frame.
And George is having this impact after suffering a horrific broken leg playing for USA Basketball in the summer of 2014.
“It’s his commitment, his length, quickness,” Thibodeau said, “anticipation, his will, determination, ability to make multiple efforts, get through things, impacts plays. ... He also has the ability to recover. You have to protect the ball at all times against him.”
The U.S. will need his versatility on both ends of the floor against Spain on Friday.