Paul George’s rise to stardom in the NBA began in Indiana, where at one point the Pacers presented the biggest challenge to LeBron James and the Miami Heat for the Eastern Conference throne.
However, the Pacers never crested that hill before George requested a trade out of Indiana in 2017, ending up in Oklahoma City for two seasons before successfully requesting a second trade to the Clippers to team up with Kawhi Leonard this past offseason. While his departure from the Thunder seemed amicable, an end to two disappointing seasons on a team that simply wasn’t working out, that wasn’t the case with the Pacers.
On the most recent episode of the Knuckleheads podcast with Quentin Richardson and Darius Miles on The Players Tribune, George went into greater detail on all of the steps that led him to requesting out of Indiana, explaining how his trust in the Pacers front office eroded over the years.
— Quentin Richardson (@QRich) June 23, 2020
George cites how Danny Granger was treated after his injury and the trade of George Hill as what seeded that distrust, but it wasn’t until the summer of 2017 that he finally was fed up. According to George, “the top power forward” in the league wanted to join him in Indiana, but the front office told him they couldn’t afford him, and came back with a “top-20, 25 power forward” to ask him about. It was at that point that George realized “they don’t wanna win,” and told his agent to request a trade.
A quick look at the list of free agents in 2017 makes it not too difficult to narrow down who George may be talking about when it comes to the “top power forward” in the league, as it’s likely Blake Griffin (who re-signed with the Clippers that summer) or, possibly, Kevin Durant depending on George’s definition of power forward. Either way, it’s a fascinating “what if?” scenario. Griffin going to Indiana likely means George stays with the Pacers and, as such, the Clippers don’t end up with Kawhi this summer. If it’s Durant, which seems unlikely, then we’re talking about the Warriors never bringing him in and all manner of domino effects from that.
In any case, that didn’t happen and George quickly made the decision to push his way out of Indiana, which has worked out fairly well for all parties. The Pacers have remained a solid playoff team in the East, thanks to the emergence of Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis as All-Star players from the George trade. The Thunder were able to kickstart a rebuild with a treasure trove of draft picks and a young talent in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander while maintaining a playoff spot in the West in the immediate. Meanwhile, George is now on a title contender in his hometown playing for the Clippers.