brian golden

They were thrown together by circumstance in 2011.

They’ve completely changed the circumstances at StaplesCenter in 2019.

Frank Vogel, technically, was Paul George’s second NBA coach.

Jim O’Brien was the Indiana Pacers coach when team president Larry Bird, overruling his entire personnel department, drafted the Pride of Palmdale and Knight High School 10th overall in the 2010 NBA Draft.

George had come out of Fresno State after his sophomore season.

“Nobody knew then,” said current Paraclete coach Newton Chelette, who officiated Mountain West Conference games when he wasn’t carving out a Hall of Fame coaching career at Antelope Valley College, “how good this guy could be.”

Vogel had a pretty good idea when he succeeded the fired O’Brien at midseason in 2011 and led the Pacers to the playoffs for the first time in five years.

“We didn’t run a single play for Paul his rookie year,” Vogel said. “But you should have seen him compete in practice every day.”

The world did, a year later. 

PG-13 was voted the NBA’s Most Improved Player in 2011-12.

Palmdale’s Favorite Son also honored the late Pete Knight’s high-flying legacy by competing in the All-Star Slam Dunk Contest an hour west of the Kennedy Space Center.

George’s first year as a starter in 2012-13 went all the way to the seventh game of the NBA’s Eastern Conference finals.

LeBron James’ backdoor layup at the buzzer in Game 1 was all that kept Paul and Paulette George’s son out of his first NBA Finals.

Seven years later, PG-13 and LBJ could be going at it again for another trip to the NBA Finals.

We may get our first Hallway Series in the Western Conference finals.

There won’t be any backdoor trickery next May.

Frank Vogel has sold the Lakers on defense.

It was the foundation of his success in Indiana.

The Lakers have won more games this season when their own shots aren’t falling than all of the other six years since the Time Warner Cable betrayal COMBINED.

They enjoy sticking opponents as much, if not more, than sticking threes.

In Indianapolis, where he lived on a reservoir so he could indulge his Palmdale-bred passion for fishing, the Knight in Shining Armor steadily filled up his trophy case.

There were All-Star Games — especially Kobe Bryant’s last one in Toronto, where Gregg Popovich had go to a box-and-one to keep George from breaking Wilt Chamberlain’s 63-year-old all-star game scoring record.

There was the 2016 Olympic Gold Medal in Rio, when PG-13 confirmed a kid from the windswept desert prairies of east Palmdale could emerge as one of the 12 best basketball players on the planet.

Last season in Oklahoma City — Palmdale on steroids — he was a finalist for MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. This, despite having only half of one good shoulder for the last two months of the season.

Michael Jordan (1988) and Hakeem Olajuwon (1994) are the only players ever to win both awards in the same season. 

“You know,” Vogel observed several years back, after siccing his defensive chloroform specialist on an enemy hot hand and watching him disappear from the boxscore, “I think the award Paul really wants is NBA Defensive Player of the Year.”

Coach Vogel may come to rue that prediction.

Say, in the first Hallway Series?

Winner goes to the NBA Finals.

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