Paul George was recently a guest on the Knuckleheads podcast and he had some interesting things to say about why he demanded a trade from the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers’ decision to trade Danny Granger and George Hill frustrated him, but George’s main issue was that Indiana failed to land a superstar power forward who apparently wanted to join the team.
“I ain’t gon’ say the names, because I’m going to keep their business private, I’ma just 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,” George explained. “They’re like, ‘We’re a mid-major, we’re a small market. We can’t do it. We’re a small market and 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, now I’m pissed because it’s like, ‘What am I doing here?’ You know what I mean? They don’t want to win. I’ve got the best power forward that wants to come play here. Not everybody chooses Indy to come play at, but this dude wanted to come play here! They didn’t want to do it.”
Instead, George said that the Pacers tried to sell him on a different power forward.
“They call me up and, again, I’m gonna leave the names out, but now this person that they’re talking about [signing instead] is maybe a Top 20 or Top 25 power forward,” George said. “They put him up like, ‘Hey, how do you feel about this person?’ This other person that they were gonna sign in free agency [was] coming off an injury; I didn’t feel comfortable with that. After that phone call, I’m like, ‘They don’t get it.’ I call my agent like, ‘Man, get me up out of here, they don’t want to win.'”
A league source believes that George is talking about Anthony Davis, which makes sense since he was widely regarded as the best power forward in the league in the summer of 2017 (when this conversation happened). Did the Pacers pass on an opportunity to add Davis for financial reasons? It’s not that simple.
While Davis may have told George that he wanted to join him in Indiana, it would’ve been nearly impossible for the Pacers to actually acquire the superstar big man. After all, it’s not like Davis was a free agent and the Pacers chose not to sign him because of the cost. Davis had just signed a five-year, $145 million extension with New Orleans in 2015, so he didn’t even have any leverage to demand a trade (unlike in 2019 when he threatened to walk as a free agent if they didn’t deal him).
At that time, Davis was a 24-year-old who was on the All-NBA 1st Team and New Orleans wanted to keep him for the rest of his career. In other words, he was virtually untouchable, especially since he had just signed an extension. The Pelicans didn’t trade Davis until two years later when he asked to be dealt (and even then it took a massive offer for the Los Angeles Lakers to add him).
The Pacers ended up trading George to the Oklahoma City Thunder and while that team struggled, he’s now in a perfect situation with the Los Angeles Clippers. George and Davis ended up playing in the same city, even though playing on the same team was not meant to be.