Paul George was one of the most mentioned names in the NBA this past offseason and ended up switching teams when everything was said and done. After making it clear to the Indiana Pacers that he did not intend to re-sign with the franchise, general manager Kevin Pritchard agreed to a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder that sent Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis back to Indiana.
It was a trade that shocked the NBA landscape, with many media members criticizing the Pacers for not getting enough in return for their franchise player. However, the Pacers are confident that the two young players they brought back will be key pieces in the re-tooling process that they are going through.
In a recent interview with George, it was clear that the former face of the Pacers’ franchise was not happy with the organization. He did not hold anything back, as he criticized his former team and opened up on certain things that made him lose faith in the franchise.
On the NBA A to Z podcast with NBA writers and reporters Sam Amick and Jeff Zillgitt, George took multiple shots at the Pacers, especially the way their front office handled themselves during his tenure in Indiana.
“From my understanding, in my mind of playing for one organization, I’m thinking, ‘Ok, this is Indiana. This is a small market, and guys have opportunities to play in bigger markets (like) LA, Miami, New York, Dallas, or Houston. Bigger markets, (like), the Warriors. So from my understanding, it was like, ‘It’d be hard to build a team with multiple superstars,’ (but in his) first year I get here, we already have three superstars on the team. It just goes to show what’s possible with different organizations.”
That may not be viewed by most as a “shot” at the Pacers, but it was an obvious statement that George did not feel that Indiana was trying to bring talent in around him. He continued on to talk about the treatment of former teammates Danny Granger and Roy Hibbert.
“I just want to touch on, man, on my situation. I’ve seen a guy that played for that (Pacers) organization, gave that organization everything they had, or everything he had, and was essentially traded to the dogs. And I’m speaking on Danny Granger, who was one of the better players in Pacers history. And at the time, they traded him to the Philadelphia 76ers. And this was a guy that was battling injuries, and that’s where you send him? The guy is trying to get back on his feet, trying to work back to this league, (and) you send him to the Philadelphia Sixers? Why, because that makes you better? Do what’s right by the player that’s given you everything. So (there) was a lot of that in my seven years there, a lot of that kind of played a roll and (took) a toll on me on, ‘Well, what will they do to me now? Like, where would I go?’ So you know, it was, I think, God had me in this situation.”
George may have a point with the treatment of Granger, who was dealt to the 76ers for Evan Turner at the trade deadline a few years back. Larry Bird made the move hoping that Turner could help spring the Pacers to the top of the Eastern Conference, ahead of LeBron James and the Miami Heat. Unfortunately, the Pacers imploded down the stretch and once again came up short to the Heat in the playoffs.
Next, George talked about how he felt about the trade that sent him to Oklahoma City. Instead of being thankful that Indiana traded him to a contender in the Western Conference, he felt that Kevin Pritchard made it a point to send him to a team that would have to compete with the defending champion Golden State Warriors.
“I took it as it was a kick in the behind, like, ‘Go ahead and go try to beat the Warriors. Go play alongside Russ and get your butt kicked against the Warriors.’ That’s how I looked at how that trade went down, because honestly we had no idea OKC was even interested or was in the trade until the trade actually happened.”
George did make an effort to mention good things about Indiana, but those remarks failed to erase the comments that he had already made.
“But again, I’m not here to trash Indiana. They have some of the best people I’ve ever met in their front office and in that organization. I grew up there. I could go on and on (with) the positives in Indiana, but that’s where my thought process and my – that’s where I, I guess, my opportunity to leave had opened up.”
Needless to say, this is yet another tough pill to swallow for the Pacers and especially their fan base. Losing a superstar is painful enough, but to hear that superstar continue to dwell on the negatives and mention them openly after the way things went down this summer is not easy.
Sam Presti and the Thunder, on the other hand, have set themselves up nicely to contend in the West. In addition to George and reigning MVP Russell Westbrook, the Thunder went out and acquired star forward Carmelo Anthony in a massive trade with the New York Knicks. They have done a good job of making George happy and seem to have a chance to re-sign him in free agency following the 2017-18 season.
All of that being said, Indiana still has a sour taste in their mouth from the way George left town this offseason. These comments and the continual openly negative dialogue from George will not make those wounds heal faster.
Indiana and Oklahoma City will face off on October 25 in a matchup that will be must-watch television. George will return to Indiana to face the Pacers for the first time on December 13, and the fans likely will not forget about these comments between now and then.
Do you think Paul George went too far in his criticism of the Indiana Pacers? Do you think he is justified in his opinion of the franchise? Let us know your thoughts in the comment box below!
[Featured Image by Sue Ogrocki/AP Images]