Paul George felt the championship window was closing for the Indiana Pacers

Paul George will be looking on from a far. How will the Pacers look without him.
Paul George will be looking on from a far. How will the Pacers look without him. /

Paul George said he felt like the Indiana Pacers chances of winning a championship were closing according to Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins.

Why did Paul George leave the Indiana Pacers? According to the man himself, he believes the Indiana Pacers hadn’t put themselves in the position to win a championship.

That window is certainly closed for now as the team rebuilds around Myles Turner, but it was only a few seasons ago that the team was a title contender.

In his interview with Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins, PG also said he understood the backlash from fans.

"“There’s no right way to handle it,” George says. “I get the frustration. But at the same time, I want the average fan to understand that we only get a small window to play this game and more than anything you want to be able to play for a championship. I wanted to bring that to Indiana. I really did. I love Indiana. That will always be a special place for me and I’m sorry for not holding on. But I wasn’t sure we’d ever get a team together to compete for a championship and that’s where all this came from.”"

The way he left gives fans ammunition for turning on him, but it is understandable that George felt like the team was in a rebuild since 2014. He slowly watched the deconstruction of the team that went to a pair of Eastern Conference finals and wasn’t showing improvement over the past two seasons.

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While it is hard for fans to stomach George’s exit, his point that the Pacers were trending in the wrong direction was correct. On top of being the last man standing, Larry Bird’s moves in the last few seasons hadn’t panned out and the team went from a contender to one that eliminated in the first round in back-to-back seasons.

There was hope, but it is still a few years away. Myles Turner is the future of the Pacers, but he won’t enter the prime of his career for a few more years. While Thad Young, Jeff Teague, and C.J. Miles were a strong core, the bench of the Pacers constantly let the Pacers down.

Interestingly enough, George said Bird’s resignation was a tipping point for him.

"Throughout 2016, George followed the dog-eared free-agent playbook, betraying little about his future plans. “I straddled the fence,” he says. “‘Let’s see how this team shapes up and we’ll let you know.’ There was no, ‘Hey, I’m sticking around,’ and no, ‘Hey, I’m leaving.’” Not until June, after Pacers president Larry Bird resigned, did he sense a shift in the franchise and in himself. The core that reached the Eastern Conference Finals three years ago—George Hill, David West, Roy Hibbert—were all gone, as was the legendary architect. “Here I am, the last guy, and I kind of felt a rebuild coming,” George says. “I felt like the window had closed. I thought they were going in a different direction and I wanted to go in a different direction.” He didn’t ask for a trade. He told the Pacers he intended to sign elsewhere after his deal expired in ‘18. “I wanted them to have the opportunity to get something back if they didn’t want me to play that last year.”"

Perhaps deeper playoff runs the past two seasons might have convinced George otherwise, but unfortunately, Kevin Pritchard didn’t get the chance to show PG a path to success going forward.

Eventually going to the Los Angeles Lakers doesn’t sound like a better path to a title either, but if Los Angeles snag George and another star next summer, that future looks vastly different for the Lakers.

Next: Did Kevin Pritchard win the offseason?

The sting will fade one day, but Paul George won’t be liked in Indiana for the time being no matter what reasons he gave for leaving the Pacers.