Paul George said there’s more to his Pacers exit than people realized.
Now with the Clippers, George is spilling a lot of beans.
Appearing on the “Knuckleheads with Quentin Richardson and Darius Miles” podcast, George listed several grievances leading up to his 2017 departure from Indiana – the Pacers trading Danny Granger rather than helping him recover from injury, the Pacers trading George Hill without informing George first, George appearing in trade rumors himself. Then, George revealed the final straw.
You know how it goes. Cats like, “Yo, P, I want to play with you.”
I ain’t going to say the names, because I’m going to keep their business private. I’m just going to say it like this: I had, at the time, the best power forward saying he wanted to come to Indy and team up with me.
They’re like, “We’re a mid-major. We’re a small market. We can’t do it. We’re a small market. We can’t afford that.” I’m like, “The best power forward wants to come play here. Y’all can’t make that work?” They didn’t want to do it.
So, I’m like – now, I’m pissed. Because it’s like, what am I doing here? You know what I mean? They don’t to win. I’ve got the best power forward that want to come play here. Not everybody chooses Indy to come play at. This dude wanted to come play here. They didn’t want to do it.
George said the Pacers called George saying they were instead interested in other players (a top-20/25 power forward and another player recovering from injury).
After that phone call, I’m like, “They don’t get it.” I called my agent like, “Man, get me up out of here.” They don’t want to win.
George told the Pacers he planned to leave in 2018 unrestricted free agency. They traded him to the Thunder for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.
The big question: Who was that mystery power forward?
The top power forward in 2017 free agency was Blake Griffin. The Clippers gave him a near-max contract. I doubt he would’ve left L.A. for Indiana.
But the very best power forward in the league was Anthony Davis. And that’s reportedly whom George was referring to.
J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star:
I keep getting Blake Griffin comments over this. It was NOT him. PG is referring to Anthony Davis who had a couple yrs left on his deal. No commitment to #Pacers beyond that and a team gutting itself to get AD and then having to compete w/Lakers in free agency made it a no-go https://t.co/cJ1BppN6L2
— J. Michael (@ThisIsJMichael) June 23, 2020
Davis had three years left on his contract with the Pelicans. Maybe he wouldn’t have stayed in Indiana beyond that, but that’s a long time! Davis and George would have formed an awesome tandem.
Sure, there would have been risk with George headed toward unrestricted free agency in 2018. And acquiring Davis certainly would’ve required surrendering significant long-term assets.
But as George tells it, the Pacers were too risk-averse. I wouldn’t blame him for not wanting to stay with a team afraid of bottoming out and therefore reluctant to reach for championship contention.
Of course, there are other perspectives.
The summer of 2017 was right between Davis steadfastly proclaiming his commitment to New Orleans and openly wondering whether the Pelicans had his back. Would he have really pushed for a trade to Indiana? There’s a big difference between friendly banter with George and actually making a trade request. Stars talk about teaming up far more often than they actually team up.
Even if Davis requested a trade, would the Pelicans really have acquiesced? They resisted trading him when he asked out with just one-and-a-half seasons left on his deal. They had far more leverage when he had three full seasons remaining.
There’s a decent chance George got upset about something that never would’ve happened, anyway.
Interestingly, a fear in Indiana – that George was bound for Los Angeles, maybe taking Davis with him – came to fruition. George (Clippers) and Davis (Lakers) are now rivals there.