he Paul George era at Bankers Life Fieldhouse has come to an abrupt end. The dream of an NBA championship banner hanging from the rafters is once again put on hold. The Pacers are now in full rebuild mode. Perhaps the most disappointing fact is that Paul George’s career will bloom with another team — maybe the Oklahoma Thunder, maybe somewhere else. I think that Pacer fans recognized that George was the greatest talent in a Pacer uniform they had seen since Reggie Miller dominated the old Market Square Arena. No player had risen to greatness for the Pacers quicker than Paul George. He was the reason that there was any national interest in the team and he was the media darling. It was on his shoulders that the city placed it’s championship hopes and it was his jersey that sold the best of any Pacer. But all that is over now.
It was hoped that PG-13 would shoulder the burden of leadership for the team. That was a role that George just didn’t want to take on. On numerous occasions, usually after a loss, George would tell reporters “The Pacers are my team. Whether I like it or not!” George is a California kid. Growing up in the greater LA area, he attended Clippers games on a regular basis. But his heart was always with the Lakers. As the end of his contract started looming in the distance, there was speculation that the team simply was not going to be able to afford to keep PG-13 in a Pacer’s uniform. It could have cost the team the equivalent of the national defense budget to keep George. George was underwhelmed by that prospect no matter what he would be paid.
So then the final year of his current contract was upon the team. So what to do?
Larry Bird’s decision to leave the team was the first sign that the team was in a hopeless situation. When George’s agent said his client would not be returning to the team after the 2017-18 season under any circumstances, that was the worst case senario for all the Pacer fans. Paul George said “That he just wanted to get a championship ring,” with the inference being that he realized that would be impossible if he continued his career in Indianapolis. The last several months had been filled with speculation and unconfirmed reports about what George and the Pacers would do. The story matched the playoffs for national media interest. The experts then started the trade speculation. George would be traded in his last contract year to the Lakers for a number 1 pick in the draft. The Lakers would get George a year earlier. George said he would just as soon stay with the Pacers in his final contract year. The Lakers weren’t biting away.
The draft came and went and there was no deal. The rumor came up that the Celtics had offered the Pacers two first round draft picks and some players but that was false. There were several teams that were interested but the Pacers’ asking price was a bit steep. Then the Oklahoma Thunder trade came about, The Thunder was one of the few teams that had NOT been mentioned in trade speculation! So the deal was done and all parties can now move on. The media of course is now claiming the team handled the whole process very poorly and is headed for HECK IN A HAND BASKET!
Okay, now where are the Pacers at? Chad Buchanan is now the boss. He has proceeded cautiously so far and seems to have made the best of a bad situation. Head Coach Nate McMillan has to piece the new puzzle together. Center Myles Tuner is now “The Guy.” The Pacers took UCLA’s T. J. Leaf on the first round; he will make the team and contribute but his growth potential is limited. Ike Anigbogu as second pick and Edmond Sumner in the third round are coming off injuries, and may have greater potential than Leaf. As to what the Pacers got from the Thunder for George, well, they got a player with a built-in fan base in Victor Oladipo. As most of you know, Oladipo was the leader of those great IU Hoosier teams of a few years back and many fans wanted to see him in a Pacer uniform. He is a popular addition. Domantas Sabonis is a promising player who could have a bigger role with the Pacers. Those who ask “Why didn’t the Pacers get more?” have to remember that every team knows that George will go to the Lakers in 2018 so no one was going to give a whole lot for player that would only be with them a year and the Lakers know he will join them soon enough, so why give up anything when he will be your player free and clear in just a year? Anyway the incident is now part of the Pacer’s history so it’s definitely time to move on!
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