Farewell Paul George

By TYLER SMITH (@TylerSmith_ISL)
ISL Editor 

Paul George rises to shoot. (Photo by Pacers.com)

Paul George rises to shoot.
(Photo by Pacers.com)

INDIANAPOLIS —  When you know a breakup is coming, does it make it any easier when it actually happens?  That depends on who you ask, I guess.  For many Pacers fans, the split with Paul George is as painful as it gets.

What about all of our good times?

What about all that talk of staying together forever?

You mean, there’s someone else?

Paul George was supposed to be the next Reggie Miller, or better.  He said so himself.

“I’ve been adopted here,” George told the Indy Star less than one year ago.  “I feel I have birthed a new generation of basketball players. I feel like I’ve been iconic to the next generation of kids that will grow up the same way that they grew up loving Reggie and still have that admiration for Reggie. I’m a part of them and I am a Hoosier.”

Sorry to bring up old wounds. I know reading old text messages from the one who broke your heart isn’t a great idea.

All the signs were there for this breakup to take place.  The fans, and clearly the front office, were simply in denial.  So here the Pacers are- once again a franchise in flux.

It’s truly amazing what all has changed in just a few short years.  It seems like just yesterday, Larry Bird and company had built a powerhouse team that looked to be in contention for years.  They had their rising star. They had veteran leaders. They were balanced and talented at every position.

Before moving back home and writing for IndySportsLegends.com, I lived in Florida for three years.  In my final year there, I watched a Pacers team take a 2-1 lead over the Miami Heat in the playoffs, and even though they’d end up losing the series, I kept coming back to one word: Proud.  The Indiana Pacers had built a team that you could be proud of.  The “Blue Collar, Gold Swagger” mantra fit perfectly.  The #BuiltNotBought hashtag was perfect as well.  Bankers Life Fieldhouse had turned back the clock and had a similar magic to the Reggie years.

The best part?  It appeared the Pacers were built to last.

Unfortunately, it would only really last for one more year.  The Pacers had the No.1-seed in the East, but things were starting to fall apart.  They barely survived against the Atlanta Hawks, and ended up losing in six games to the Miami Heat.

You know the rest of the story:  Lance Stephenson left. Roy Hibbert declined (to put it lightly). David West started to show his age. Paul George got hurt.  And then, Larry Bird decided to change everything.  Since that 1-seed team, very little has gone the Pacers way, which leads us back to the unfortunate split of the franchise and Paul George.

It’s really a shame how things are ending.  Paul George is an incredible talent, but he hasn’t always handled the “business” side of things very well.  You could argue that he’s making the best business decision for himself right now, and you may be correct.  But having your agent tell your boss you want out after saying you were on the same page?  Leaking information about where you want to play despite being under contract?  It’s not a great look.

And now, the once beloved franchise player will get booed when he returns to the place he used to own.  Remember when PG screamed “This is my city!” against Utah a few months ago?  Yeah, me neither.

He does deserve some credit for letting the Pacers know his intentions. Trading him is obviously better than losing him for nothing.  But it didn’t have to be this way.  Pacer fans feel betrayed. They feel lied to.  And to many, it just doesn’t seem real.

Whether the Pacers blow the whole thing up or not remains to be seen.  History is not on their side in this situation.  It seems like it took forever to become good again.  And now, they have to start all over once again.

It’s hard to think about the good times when a breakup takes place.  But even though the relationship with PG-13 is over, maybe one day you’ll be able to look back at the old videos, glance through the old photos, and be grateful that you witnessed a young kid from Fresno State help put the Pacers back on the map.


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