Pacers fans booed Clippers forward Paul George earlier this week, which seems logical enough. After all, he’s a star who left their favorite team (without putting them over the top for their first championship).
But George said there’s more to the story of his Indiana exit, “and I promise you, I’m not the one to boo.”
Brian Windhorst on ESPN:
I spent this morning talking to some people in Indiana, and only Paul really knows. I guess we’ll have to wait tell-all digital short, Uninterrupted special. But the belief in Indiana is that he’s referring to Larry Bird.
It’s important to reiterate: George didn’t say Larry Bird. This is other people speculating. People who might know, which is why this is relevant. But other people speculating, nonetheless.
While with the Pacers, George and Bird sometimes butted heads:
- Their biggest public clash came in 2015. Bird wanted George to play more power forward. George resisted spending too much time at the position, preferring small forward. Bird noted he was the boss. George eventually came around.
- Though he said George wouldn’t play until comfortable, Bird played up the possibility of George returning from his Team USA injury late in the 2014-15 season. George said he was on the fence about playing, and then-Pacers coach Frank Vogel tried to pump the brakes. Ultimately, George played the final six games of the season.
- Bird also reprimanded George for tweets about Ray Rice and domestic violence in 2014. George apologized for his comments.
In 2016, Bird said he had a standing max offer to George. So, if there were any major problems prior, they didn’t bother Bird too much.
Bird also resigned as Pacers president before George left. Adrian Wojnarowski’s report on George telling the team he’d leave even included this line:
George had a close relationship with the architect of those Pacers teams, Larry Bird, who recently stepped down as team president to become a franchise consultant.
It doesn’t really add up, which makes me wonder: Is the current Pacers regime – led by president Kevin Pritchard – trying to shift blame for something onto Bird? It’s also possible Windhorst’s sources have no nefarious intent and are just simply wrong about Bird being George’s target.
Or they could be right. Maybe Bird crossed George in a way unrelated to anything we know publicly. Or maybe George just holds one of these relatively insignificant issues in greater regard than the rest of us.
If George were referring to Bird – a homegrown basketball legend who coached the Pacers to their first NBA Finals then later took over in the front office and built them back into a contender – good luck convincing Indiana fans to boo Bird over George.