Oklahoma City Thunder Rumors
Paul George was expecting the worst but holding out hope for something better. If Indiana Pacers fans booed him, he got it. He didn’t represent them anymore. He’d broken up with them, leaving them to mourn what they had and what would never come to be. But George thought there would be some recognition of what they had — of how he became a star in that uniform, how he fought to salvage his career following a horrific injury with their support and encouragement. Instead, he had to grapple with the confusing emotions of being jeered every time he touched the ball by the same people who cheered him only eight months ago, many of whom were expressing their displeasure while wearing his Pacers jersey.
“It was tough. I was ultimately part of hanging banners that will forever be in this arena, of winning our division and being a part of some really good Pacers teams,” Paul George told Yahoo Sports, walking down the halls of the building he once figuratively owned. “It sucks that they forget about that and want to relish on a couple of months instead of what I’ve done for years here. It’s fine. I thought I handled it as well as I could. But I’ve moved on and I’m ready for the next part of my career.”
Paul George said the Pacers’ success has given him closure and made him feel better about how he handled his exit by informing the front office of his desire to play elsewhere and giving Indiana the chance to get something of value in return. He didn’t give them a half-hearted eighth season and leave them empty handed. But the timing of his decision still has some Pacers fans salty, because George waited until days before the NBA draft and gave “gut-punched” team president Kevin Pritchard little time to find a package that could’ve given the franchise the picks and prospects that All-Stars usually yield in deals. Pritchard is finally starting to get recognition for swinging a quality deal under the circumstances, especially with Oladipo playing as if an All-Star appearance and NBA Most Improved Player award are within his grasp. “[Victor Oladipo] is the face of Indiana. Vic is the future of Indiana. I’m along with Indiana on this Victor wave,” George said. “Let’s put all this to rest for what it is. I had an amazing seven years here. I was blessed to play in front of a great Indiana fan base, which as you saw tonight, they showed up and showed out. I’m grateful. I’m grateful to play in this organization. But ultimately I didn’t achieve what I wanted to do here and I moved on. Both sides moved on, and let’s all move on.”
Sam Amick: Rival execs still expect Paul to head for the Lakers in free agency, meaning his trade value will be depressed. Also, OKC is just 3 games out of 4th spot in the West. Still time…
The league is watching the George situation very closely, and there’s a general belief that the Thunder will have to act if they haven’t significantly improved a few months from now (there are 29 games left before the deadline). With every George trade inquiry – whether it’s Presti on the call or recently returned front office mate/former Orlando Magic GM Rob Hennigan, who often handles such discussions for OKC – executives will be eager to exploit the situation.
Despite the awful appearance, the internal dynamic remains – by all accounts – very positive. There has been no rotting of this superstar core, just a well-intentioned group that can’t seem to play consistently. From their respectable net rating (plus-1.2, 11th overall) to their stout defense (2nd overall), there are reasons to believe they’ll turn this around.