That dunk and the game-ending block on Walker are reasons why George told ESPN that he has wanted to play alongside Leonard since 2017, when he asked the Indiana Pacers to trade him to San Antonio. The Spurs didn’t have enough assets to strike a deal, according to league sources. “I mean, that’s the Finals MVP, man,” George said of Leonard. “He knows when it’s time to take over. He’s been there and he’s won championships with multiple ballclubs, so he knows how to stomp and put that foot on opponents’ neck, and that’s what you saw him do tonight.”
Stephen Jackson was rolling a blunt as he tried to gather his thoughts on the “Malice at the Palace.” Tuesday marked the 15th anniversary of the most infamous brawl in NBA history, which took place Nov. 19, 2004, during a game between the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons. It resulted in nine players getting suspended for 146 games. Jackson was suspended 30 games and lost $1.7 million in salary for the incident, which included him and Ron Artest taking the fight into the crowd after Artest was hit by a drink thrown by a fan. “I don’t really think about the brawl until this time of year when it’s all over social media,” he said as he sealed and lit his blunt outside of a recording studio in Santa Monica. “I don’t regret it. I was there for my teammate and it was something I took pride in doing. I just hate the way I got judged. I’m far from a thug. I’m a loyal friend who will always have your back.”
In June 2017, George was dreaming of different scenery. When the All-Star forward informed the Indiana Pacers that he wanted to be traded, reports came out that he wanted to return home and be moved to the Los Angeles Lakers. But George had another team on top of his wish list. “I wanted to be traded to San Antonio,” George says. “We wanted to go to San Antonio first, and we didn’t make that happen.”
A league source confirmed that the Pacers and Spurs talked, but San Antonio lacked the assets to pair George with Leonard. The Lakers also wanted George, but then team-president Magic Johnson would not trade the 2017 second overall pick (which would become Lonzo Ball) and Brandon Ingram, believing they could eventually sign George as a free agent. “As far as the Lakers, I wanted to go to L.A.,” George says. “They didn’t make that happen. They didn’t put nothing together. So that’s in the back of my mind [when I became a free agent]. That was in the back of my mind.”
The 6-foot-7 Bowen, now 21, played for the Sydney Kings in 2018-19 but wasn’t drafted. He ended up signing a two-way deal this summer with the Indiana Pacers. He’s with the Pacers’ G League developmental team, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, and made his Pacers debut last week with two points. “We have had dozens of NBA scouts attend games this season. Up to half a dozen or more will attend any single game featuring an NBL Next Star, and this is also great exposure for other NBL players to make a case for transitioning to the NBA,” Loeliger said.