An Open Letter to Paul George
As the Indiana Pacers begin to look to move toward life without their “superstar,” a few words from a lifelong fan…
Update (6/24/2017): Apparently Paul George decided it would be a good idea to criticize reports that he’s moving, days after informing the Indiana Pacers he would be moving.
When you were drafted with the 10th overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, not many knew who you were, myself included. But the “experts” claimed that you had the potential to be an amazing steal. And as you grew into your role with the Indiana Pacers, the fan base grew alongside you.
Those three years, from 2011 to 2014.. man, those playoff runs were fun. Weren’t they? Two trips to the Eastern Conference Finals, squaring up against what some would argue was the birth of the “superteam” concept?
West versus Bosh, Lance versus Wade.. and the arrival of Paul George, toughing it out again the greatest of our time in LeBron James. It was our modern-day version of “Hicks vs. Knicks,” a bitter rivalry with their three-headed monster in Miami, breathing new life into the Indiana Pacers fan base that so desperately needed it.
And you rose to that calling, Paul — the Hoosier faithful believed we had found our answer to LeBron’s dominance. Just a piece or two from being able to seriously challenge the Miami Heat and the Western Conference.
But then came that awful, horrific August 1st day, a scrimmage with Team USA. Everything was put on hold, including a budding career, due to a horrifying injury, a broken leg. But one season wasn’t the end of the world for Pacers fans — what mattered was your health and your uphill battle you had ahead of you.
And these fans stood by you throughout the entire process. And they were there, at an April 6, 2015 sellout against the Miami Heat (fittingly enough), to welcome you back to the court with open arms.
In your absence, the game changed — drastically. Granted, the changes were in motion well before the 2014–15 NBA season, but it was this season — the same season you missed due to injury — that the Golden State Warriors took the first of their two (and counting) championships. And it wasn’t just a fluke — the Warriors had changed the game of basketball forever.
Quick. Flowing. “Small ball.” The beauty of the Warriors offense was that it was fluid, and Pacers president Larry Bird had a vision to re-shape the roster and change with the league. A vision completely derailed by your refusal to play at the power forward position for the Pacers. Masking it with excuses like “we’re more of a traditional team opposed to the new NBA.”
It was from that point on that the writing was on the wall for Pacers fans. You‘ve had your head in the sand if you hadn’t known for years Paul George wasn’t staying in Indiana past 2018, if not leaving sooner.
In a story earlier this year from the IndyStar’s Gregg Doyel, he asked head coach Nate McMillan about using Paul at the 4 as an “emergency.”
His response? “We’ve tried that, but Paul is …” McMillan said, then paused. “Um, we’ve tried that some — but no,” he said again. “I wish it was that easy, and it really should be, but it’s not.”
It should be, but it’s not. The head coach of the Indiana Pacers, trying to figure out how to adapt to this new NBA with this current roster, cannot make the simplest of lineup changes because of your adamant refusals to step out of your comfort zone.
And then came your turning on the fans. The Hoosier faithful, who waited out an entire season to usher you back with open arms. A fan base that wants so desperately to just win, and is passionate about their own (see: Reggie Miller’s legacy).
What did you say about them, Paul? On January 23rd, 2017, after losing to the lowly New York Knicks at home, dropping to 22–22 and losers of 7 of the previous 10, you did everything short of calling the fan base “fair weather.”
“Just know we work harder off of cheers than boos,” he told the Indianapolis Star’s Jim Ayello. “It’s not like we’re out there not giving our all…It’s not like we’re just out there to be there.”
And then, the dagger; “That’s Indy in general. We’ve been №1 in the East and lost a game at home and got booed. That’s just Indiana.”
That’s just Indiana. Hard-working fans who pay good money to enjoy games, voicing their displeasure at an underwhelming basketball team producing a mediocre product. But you know, that’s just Indiana.
Look, I’m not upset you’re leaving for Los Angeles — on the contrary, it’s your right as a player, and good for you for valuing “going home” over winning (because you’re sure as hell not going to be doing a whole lot of that at the beginning of your Lakers tenure).
I’m not even necessarily speaking to your decision to notify the team right before the 2017 NBA Draft. As frustrating as that was, it’s still well within your rights as a player.
This is more about the way you’ve conducted yourself in your final two years in Indiana, showing a complete lack of interest in this team and a disingenuous demeanor both on the court and in the press toward the fans. It’s the way you’ve wedged your way out the door, alienating every member of the Indiana Pacers fan base, while simultaneously managing to completely destroy whatever legacy you had to leave here.
This roster and the inability to transition to the new age of the NBA, the team and the on-court product that’s being booed? That falls directly on Paul George’s shoulders. The situation you “want out” of, is the situation you have created.
And with that, Paul, good riddance. Enjoy Los Angeles. As for us in Indiana?
Let the Lance Stephenson revenge tour begin.