Paul George on his time in Indiana: ‘Things didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to’

Paul George, Pacers, Bankers Life Fieldhouse

Paul George will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, the first time in his professional career where he’ll be able to select where he plays. He didn’t even crack Rivals’ Top 150 rankings as a senior at Knight High School in 2008.

He played two years at Fresno State, and then was drafted 10th overall by the Pacers in 2010.

George spent his first seven seasons in Indy, and then had his agent inform team officials that he did not want to play out the final year of his contract with the Pacers, so they moved him.

Kevin Pritchard, newly named president of basketball operations, dealt him to Oklahoma City in exchange for Indiana grad Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis, a skilled center who was coming off his rookie season. (This season, Oladipo was named an All-Star, All-Defensive First Team, Third Team All-NBA, and like PG in 2013, Most Improved Player.)

Over the next two months, cameras are following George for a three-part short series airing on ESPN … on his journey and his free-agent decision.

The Pacers wanted to give the same group one more try in their quest to reach the NBA Finals. That was before the 2014-15 season after the LeBron James-led Miami Heat topped them in the Eastern Conference Finals the last two seasons.

But then PG went down with a fractured tibia and fibia in his right leg while training with Team USA. That changed everything, and ended that group’s run before their final push.

Then, three years later, George felt out of the loop inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

The Pacers weren’t soliciting trades for George at the trade deadline, but they were listening. As this was going on, hours before the deadline, George was at Hinkle Fieldhouse filming a Gatorade commercial. The next day, he expressed his frustration publicly — and it clearly still bothers him.

“Here I am in the dark not knowing what’s going on,” he shared in the ESPN special. “You don’t want to be a part of something that you don’t feel a part of. That’s what weighed on me.”

And so, prior to the fourth year of a five-year contract extension he signed in 2013, George knew he wanted to go elsewhere.

See Also: Paul George reflects on his time in Indiana, says it’s time for all to move on

This is also a good time to point out how smart George’s agent, Aaron Mintz, was to negotiate a player option for year five of this contract extension. While George accepted less guaranteed money at the time, it has now enabled him to become an unrestricted free agent one year earlier – worth far more than $20.7 million he could opt in for with this option.

“Indiana definitely takes the credit for who I am as a player. I became a man there, I became a superstar there. And I love the city, the fans and the front office. The dream when I got drafted there was to be a Pacer my whole career. But, things didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to and would have hope it would have.”

Pacers fans were bothered by George’s request because they took it personal, as if he said Indiana wasn’t good enough for him. And, secondly, the Pacers felt misled — and one day after he sat on a bench at a celebrity softball game saying how he’d like to bring a championship to this organization, his agent informed Pritchard of George’s feelings.

[Kevin Pritchard on trading PG: ‘It was difficult both on a personal and professional level’]

This part on the Pacers lasts 85 seconds in part one of the short series.

Pacers, Paul George

Paul George’s childhood home is filled with memorabilia from his time in Indy.

During his one season with OKC, playing alongside 2017 NBA MVP Russell Westbrook, George averaged 21.9 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game. It took the Thunder some time to become acclimated, especially with 10-time All-Star Carmelo Anthony also being acquired in the offseason.

“Here they have made a huge risk in trading for me, knowing I had one year on my deal,” George said. “But I felt I didn’t finish as strong as I could have. Just knowing that you’ve left something on the table, even to this point now, it weighs on me.”

The Thunder were ousted in round one of the playoffs by the Utah Jazz in six games.

Free agency begins on July 1 and the moratorium lasts until July 6, at which point verbal agreements can be completed with a signature. The Los Angeles Lakers have long been the favorite, as George grew up admiring Kobe Bryant up the road in Palmdale, California. But he was a Clippers fan growing up, preferring to roll with the underdog.

“When it comes to the decision to picking where I want to go, it’s the front office that’s going to work to give us that best chance to win,” George added.

Watch the first installment below:

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