Paul George’s return to Indiana won’t take place until later this season, but the Pacers visited his new home in Oklahoma City on Wednesday. (The Thunder won easily with a 114-96 rout.) Before the game, George addressed his departure, and he admits it was messier than it needed to be.
“Obviously, I’m human,” George told the Indy Star. “Things could have been done a lot better. The process, that whole ordeal could have been done a lot better. I’ll share some of that responsibility. But at the end of the day, I did what was best for myself, what was best for my family. I had to move on. It was the right decision for myself. I’m happy. I’m happy with what the results were.”
One thing Pacers head coach Nate McMillan said about George earlier this week is that he wasn’t someone who naturally took to the leadership role that was expected from him in Indiana. McMillan didn’t necessarily fault him for it — just said that some players prefer to just go out and “play ball,” and that might describe George better than saying he was a natural-born leader. Here was the quote:
“Things changed for him,” said McMillan after a recent practice. “Some guys just want to play. Having a C (for captain) on their chest doesn’t mean anything to them. They just want to play.
“You have to be yourself, and not try to be something that you’re not. I think Paul just wanted to play. The leadership, and the captain, and all of that? Sometimes people put you in that position because of your status. I think his thing was, ‘You take care of you, and I take care of me. Get yourself ready to play.’ Going to OKC, he’s back in that role of – I play. The leader is going to be Westbrook. I can go here and play.”
George pushed back on that to a degree, although seemed to admit that maybe his leadership style could be supplemented by people who led in ways other than example.
“All the other stuff, Paul doesn’t lead and all that? That’s fine. Go grab guys that lead, then. Let me help them lead. We didn’t get it done there, for whatever reason. But Paul not being assertive, Paul being a terrible leader?” George smiled with sarcasm. “I’ll take that. I had a great journey there. I tried to do my best. It just didn’t happen.”
Here’s the full Indy Star story again, which had the one-on-one George interview.
Either way, George should still receive plenty of love from Indiana. He gave the Pacers a wonderful seven years, and despite his slightly messy departure, those many, many playoff moments and great seasons don’t go away just like that. And hey, at least he was honest about his intentions, too.
This story was updated on Oct. 27, 11:16 a.m. ET to more precisely express what McMillan said about George’s leadership abilities.