I avoided watching Paul George and the Thunder play until last night when he played his first game against the team that drafted him in the Indiana Pacers.
Much like my strategy would be after a break up with a significant other, I just wanted to avoid it. Forget about it. Out of sight. Out of mind. At one point in the off-season, I nearly muted the words Paul George on Twitter.
I was expecting a mix of emotions watching George play against the Pacers. Some painful nostalgia of the good times, longing for the good old days of hot shooting, elite defense, dope dunks and deep playoff runs.
Nate McMillan even started the game by making the odd choice of having Bojan Bogdanovic match up with Paul George instead of switching him with Victor Oladipo’s man of Andre Roberson.
I thought for sure George was in for a sweet revenge game as I would be doomed to wallow in what ifs, wondering once again what could have happened differently to keep George in Indiana (No broken leg? Not signing Monta? David West not leaving? Not signing Stuckey? CJ Miles makes that shot in game one? Not signing Al Jefferson? George makes an All-NBA team last season?).
Instead, George reminded me of all the things that I never cared for about his game and was rarely able to showcase anything I may have missed rooting for when he was in Indiana. All the bad things that I used to defend suddenly became glaring flaws that make me feel okay about him no longer being around. (Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis have helped on that end too.)
Within the first few minutes of the game, Paul George was in foul trouble and in the referee’s ear about it, whining about fouls that he obviously committed.
I didn’t realize how little this new Pacers team talks to the refs in this way until PG reminded me of his tendency here. George gave me another reason to enjoy this new era. Thanks, PG.
In the few minutes that he was actually able to play the game. He threw many of his trademark careless passes that were always so frustrating after seeing them for the past seven years bounce out of bounds, into an opponent’s arms or off a teammate’s hands that were expecting a better pass with more purpose.
Even when Paul George makes the right pass, it’s in a careless way. At one point, he saw a teammate cutting to the rim and threw the right pass, an alley-oop, but it was a slightly off-target, one-handed pass that his teammate was unable to finish. It should have been an easy two points.
It wasn’t the only casual effort on a pass attempt from the game and one other actually resulted in a PG turnover, but that was the pass that I always wished George would put some effort into and not lackadaisically toss up like he barely cared what happened after it released his hands.
Then, the worst part of Paul George reared its ugly head. And I knew it was coming as soon as he fouled out in the fourth quarter with only 10 points and one rebound but the Thunder win essentially in hand.
George ended up making me look like a prophet, only he found an even worse way to say it.
“That hasn’t happened often in my career”
Are you kidding me, Paul?
You don’t remember a guy named David West?
How many times did Roy Hibbert block the shot of a guy that got by you? Remember this one?
You don’t remember the Pacers winning in Oklahoma City last year without you?
You don’t remember Glenn Robinson III in Atlanta last season hitting a buzzer-beater to win which you still have never done?
I mean I hope it doesn’t have to happen too often. You are supposed to be a superstar, right?
The Pacers went 6-7 in games last year when George had an off night and scored 16 points or less (including 2-0 when he scored less than 10 points). They were 3-4 in games without him playing at all. They weren’t much better when George played and scored more than 16 points at 33-29.
George has always been exceptionally bad at speaking to the media, allowing them to bait him into whatever narrative they want to write. It’s great for a journalist, not so great for the team or its fans.
Here’s a list of some of Paul George media bloopers (thanks to Whitney Medworth of SB Nation and Tyler Smith of Indiana Sports Legends for reminding me of a bunch of these):
- Throwing CJ Miles under the bus after he missed final shot after game one against the Cavaliers in last year’s playoffs
- Calling out Lance Stephenson and Myles Turner after the very next game
- Tweeting support for Ray Rice after the domestic violence video surfaced
- Blaming officials after games to the point of getting fined multiple times
- Everything he ever said about playing the power forward position
- Saying “That’s Indiana” in regards to boos
- Telling the media he thought he had a concussion after Wade kneed him in the head in the playoffs, but not telling the training staff
- Talking about wanting to win a championship in Indiana one day and then literally the very next day letting the organization know that you’re not going to re-sign with the team
And perhaps that last one is why this was always the worst part of Paul to me, because I was a fool and bought all the positive things he would say about Indiana and wanting to be the guy to win a title here. Believing until the final moments that there was still a chance George would finish his career as a Pacer and pass Reggie Miller as the team’s all-time best player like he said he wanted to do one day.
I believed “This is My City” when he hit the game clincher over Gordon Hayward and laid claim to his arena. I made a dope shirt of that moment that was shared a lot but few bought (because we all knew deep down).
I still haven’t deleted that tweet because I stand by it. All those what ifs still make me think that there’s a parallel universe where George is still a Pacer and will always be a Pacer. But I definitely look like an idiot to many people because of it, and all those people knew that I was an idiot when they originally saw it.
But even though I don’t expect a bunch of wins this year, I don’t miss Paul George on the Pacers, partially thanks to him reminding me of the stuff I don’t like about his game. It felt like closure.
Maybe that’ll change. Maybe George lights up the Pacers when he returns to Indianapolis in December and shows me all the awesome things that made him so much fun to watch. Maybe Oladipo will no longer look like a possible All Star by the end of the year. Maybe George and the Thunder will shock the world, beat the Warriors and then win a title (Ha!). But I don’t think it’ll matter if it any of those actually possible things happen.
I would like to thank Paul George for one more thing before I end this Taylor Swift post-breakup song of an article.
Thanks for being honest and telling the Pacers that you wouldn’t re-sign. Even if it took way, way too long and you and your agent ruined your trade value with all the Lakers nonsense. I’m glad I didn’t have to go through another season of watching you play and defending the things you say while speculation goes on week after week about where you’ll be the next season. All for it to end with you bailing for another team in the offseason with the Pacers having nothing to show for it.
Admittedly, I was no fan of the trade at the time, but I’m really glad the Pacers were able to bring a couple of guys that I’ve enjoyed watching play immensely in Oladipo and Sabonis to this point. So thanks for that Paul.
But I don’t miss you as much as I’m sure you don’t miss Indiana.