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How the Pacers ruined a championship contender with tiny moves and one big injury

There was a lot of stuff going on before Paul George broke his leg.

This is a different kind of Collapse. The Pacers didn’t fall from best record in the NBA to the league’s basement. They did fall, though, and while their decline wasn’t so deep, it was particularly weird.

A lot of people remember Paul George’s broken leg, and that played a big part in a great team’s demise. The Pacers, though, showed signs of fracturing long before George’s injury. (That was an unintentional pun, but we’re just gonna leave it.) Seemingly minor moves by team president Larry Bird — a little trade here, a little signing there — rattled the team’s stars, and perhaps contributed to measurable drops in production.

Bad vibes led to public grouchiness, which led to some surprising departures, which led a team that was already teetering before George’s broken leg to capsize for real.

The Pacers’ fall from elite to ordinary looks simple from afar, but it includes some strange details you might not remember.