After years of finding themselves in the middle, the Indiana Pacers finally have a great plan in place with Tyrese Haliburton at the helm. But before Haliburton, Domantas Sabonis, and Victor Oladipo, there was Paul George.
Indiana made the Eastern Conference finals twice in 2013 and 2014 behind the play of George. But in 2014, an injury to George changed the course of his career, as well as the future of the Pacers franchise.
Paul George says Indiana Pacers would have won NBA Championship if he had been healthy
While playing with Team USA, George went down with an ugly leg injury that held him out for the majority of the 2014-15 season. And while he eventually made his way back in 2015-16, the Pacers were never the same.
Had George not gotten injured, the Pacers may have been able to build on the momentum they created. At least, that’s what he believes.
During a recent appearance on “The Stephen A. Smith Show,” George said that the Pacers would have won a championship if he had been healthy. (H/t Yakshpat Bhargava of Basketball Network)
“The worst part was that the life was taken away from that team… after that injury, and that window was closed for us in Indiana,” George said. “I honestly believe we’d have won a championship had I been healthy going forward at some point in Indiana.”
George enjoyed two All-Star seasons in Indiana after his injury, but after that, he was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the deal that saw Oladipo and Sabonis join the Pacers.
He went on to finish in the top three in MVP and DPOY voting in his second season with the Thunder, while the Pacers were forced to enter a new era of basketball.
From 2017 to 2020, the three seasons following George’s departure from Indiana, the Pacers made the playoffs every year but were eliminated in the first round every time. They marked the third, fourth, and fifth years in a row they were bounced in the first round.
At his peak, George was going toe-to-toe with the LeBron James-led Miami Heat, and if he had been able to stay healthy, who knows what would have happened.