Devean's year... Please???
During the 1999-2000 season, during Devean George's rookie season, I made the mistake of telling some buddies I thought he looked pretty good for an inexperienced kid, and that he could be a pretty big part of the team in the future. This was merely said in passing, and mind you, I never claimed he would be the next Kobe. Or better than Kobe. I never even claimed he had "All-Star" written all over him. Just that he had some potential. It seemed like a pretty forgettable statement at the time.
Devean immediately became "my boy," and his career, which has been seen by many as a) underachieving, b) a wash, c) an expensive bust, or d) all of the above, has somehow been directly tied to yours truly. Seriously, there isn't a "Devean George and me" joke on the planet that I haven't heard. The best came during a fantasy football draft a couple years ago, when, as I was on the clock, some yahoo (I think it was my brother) cackled, "With his 8th round pick, A.K. takes Devean George." For better or for worse, I'm kinda stuck with the dude.
Which is why I was happy to see his stat line from last night's exhibition in Bakersfield against the Wizards. 22 points off the bench. 10-12 from the field. They're going to need games like that from George to compete in the West. He's perfectly capable of delivering, if even on a semi-regular basis. And as the only guy outside of Kobe that I feel confident in claiming triangle knowledge, he'll be counted on to provide experience and leadership on the court, something he's never been asked of before. In many ways, this could be the season that truly defines what the guy's made of.
George's career as a Laker has been, at the very least, inconsistent. You never quite know what you're gonna get from the guy. But one factor that shouldn't be questioned is whether or not he's got talent. He does. George is a great athlete who can seriously jump, a skill that's been somewhat obscured by a continually improving outside shot. But while I'm happy that he's turned into a legit threat from three point land, I always thought he would develop into a stronger finisher around the rim. Maybe the ankles have been a factor, I don't know. Nonetheless, he can shoot. He's also one of the best perimeter defenders on the team, which was sorely missed last season. And he rebounds well. Now, if you're asking me if he's been overpaid, in terms of production vs. salary, my answer would be "yes." I don't think there's any question that he hasn't met expectations defined by Dr. Buss' checks. But I also don't think that's a fair way to evaluate how a guy's been playing. Your game is your game. If you're getting paid an "A" grade salary, and produce "B" grade results, you don't somehow get graded a "C." You get graded a "B," and if there's a frownie face accompanying the letter, fair enough. But any way you slice it, he can theoretically bring it. That's not the issue.
I don't know George well by any stretch. Our scattered interviews over the last few years have been fairly brief. Nice guy, for sure. But from what I've continually read, and from watching his body language during countless games, the problem seems to be a serious lack of confidence. I've always thought that he gets inside his own head way too much. When he hits his first few shots, he'll have a good game. But if he starts cold, you can often write him off. And that's a bad thing. Kobe, for example, can be 0 for 40,673 from the floor, but still believes, along with everyone else in the arena, that he's on the verge of getting hot. Some of that comes from having Hall of Fame talent, but it mostly stems from the supreme sense of self confidence Kobe has. I honestly believe that if George discovers a way to tap into that mentality, the majority of this inconsistencies will fall to the wayside. It's important that he finds it. He needs to find it. If for no other reason, to spare me another year of taking (insert expletive) from my friends.