CLEVELAND: Indiana Pacers All-Star Paul George defended himself and dismissed any thought that he was a dirty player before the Pacers’ game against the Cavaliers on Monday.
George involuntarily found himself caught in the fallout of Kobe Bryant’s ankle injury when Cavs guard Daniel Gibson over the weekend accused George of perhaps intentionally trying to hurt him last season.
“I’m not a dirty player,” George said Monday. “A young guy doesn’t come into the league being a dirty player. But whatever he wants to say, he can say.”
George was a second-year guard last season when Gibson landed on his foot during a game. Gibson wound up with a torn tendon that needed to be surgically repaired and ended his season. Gibson said his foot still isn’t 100 percent healthy.
Gibson was angry at the Atlanta Hawks’ Dahntay Jones for stepping into Bryant’s landing area last week and said Jones has the reputation of being a dirty player. Then he pointed out that Jones played for the Pacers last season and “rumor has it, [Jones] taught [George] a few tricks,” Gibson said.
The league was supposed to crack down on defenders stepping into shooters’ landing areas, but Gibson said it hasn’t been policed as well as promised. The problem with Gibson is how far forward he lands on his jump shots, making it difficult for officials to determine how wide of a safety net to give him.
Just when the Cavs thought they could put away all those protective masks, Luke Walton appeared Monday night in another mask.
Walton suffered a non-displaced fracture in his nose during a loss Saturday at the San Antonio Spurs. Walton was injured when he tried taking a charge from the Spurs’ Tim Duncan, but he instead got run over and picked up a foul in the process.
Walton is the fourth Cavs player to wear a mask this season, joining a list that includes Tristan Thompson, Tyler Zeller and Kyrie Irving.
Walton wore a black mask Monday while the team works to create and fit the more traditional clear mask.
The verbal jabs between Gibson and George is just the latest saga in an ongoing feud between these two teams that began in the first meeting when Thompson and Tyler Hansbrough had to be separated after Thompson caught Hansbrough’s younger brother, Ben, with an errant elbow.
Tempers flared again in the second meeting when Hansbrough was staring down Thompson and Gibson stepped in and told him to knock if off.
“He’s always doing bulls--- like that,” Gibson said after that game. “He’s always egging guys on and walking up on them. I was like, ‘You gotta calm that s--- down before you get [expletive] up out here.”
Cavs coach Byron Scott dismissed any bad blood between the two teams and said the problems stem from the physical nature with which the Pacers play.
“They play hard. They’re a very physical basketball team,” Scott said. “The one thing we can’t do is take a step back. I can guarantee you they’re going to be physical.”
Reminded of the fact the Cavs haven’t done a very good job of matching opponents’ physical play, Scott said “we better be tonight or we’ll have someone else with a mask on.”
Kevin Jones was recalled from the Development League before the game. … Shaun Livingston began Monday averaging 13.5 points, 3.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists in six starts in place of Irving. He is shooting 55 percent and averaging 33.7 minutes.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.