That's a rather lukewarm commentary. James has offered plenty of praise of George over the past year, calling him "an unbelievable talent" just this week. But he's apparently a long way from calling George a rival, which is not what was expected after they laid the groundwork for last season's back-and-forth.
Earlier this year, George might have diminished himself in James' eyes when he revealed that he yearned to spend time with James in the summer being mentored.
"It would be great to be able to pick his brain, pick his mind and just talk about the game," George said in an interview in March. "I wish someday we have that relationship where he is someone I can talk to -- not during the season because I'm too competitive during the season -- but maybe in the summertime."
James was surprised about that, too. Although he often enjoys mentoring younger players and looks for workout partners in the summer -- meeting up with Kevin Durant several times in the past -- James seemed taken aback at George's request, then was somewhat flippant about it.
"Pick my brain like Hannibal Lecter?" James said at the time. "Sure, everyone knows I have an open-door policy."
George has played into that role so far in this series, acting more meek than assertive when getting another chance to exert his will and prove he's up to the task of knocking off James in the postseason, as he had hinted at last year. After the Game 3 loss in which George was a disappointing nonfactor, Pacers coach Frank Vogel lamented that his team was acting like the little brother to the Heat's big brother.
George is not yet the player James is; this is not debatable. Perhaps he will never be. But for the Pacers to have a chance at this point -- to challenge the big brother, to use Vogel's effective metaphor -- they badly need the All-Star presence he demonstrated last year, when they fought James much more tightly, so they can extend the series.
This point has been made to him, and heading into Game 4, he's making some vows.
"I got to be a leader, I want to be a leader for this group going forward," George said. "So if that's what it takes to get my team going, then I'll do so. I do feel like I can bring it to another level as far as being more aggressive, and I will in Game 4."