Pacers president: Paul George wanting to leave team is a ‘gut punch’
The Indiana Pacers had to have known there was a legitimate chance Paul George wouldn’t sign an extension with the team, but that didn’t make the official word any easier to handle.
After the NBA Draft Thursday night, Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard revealed that he has not spoken to George since before the 27-year-old informed the team he plans on leaving after next season. When Pritchard received the call from George’s agent, he says he was devastated.
“For me it was gut punch,” Pritchard said, via Nate Taylor of the Indianapolis Star. “It was a total gut punch because we had many conversations over the summer about players that we’d like to add, a little bit of a style we’d like to play. In my opinion, I was very inclusive with (George) and the message over the summer up until this weekend was, ‘Let’s build a winning team.’ When that came in that he wanted to look at another place, it was gut punch for us.”
Pritchard was obviously upset on a personal level, but he was also unhappy with the way information leaked revealing George intends to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers when he becomes a free agent next summer. That has made trading George far more difficult.
“Becoming public was a big issue,” Pritchard said. “The conversation with his agent was very challenging.”
Pritchard said he is still confident a trade will be completed before the season. In reality, the report about George wanting to play for the Lakers shouldn’t have affected much. Any team interested in trading for him is going to inquire about George signing an extension next offseason, and they would have likely learned of his intentions at that point.
George’s decision to move on from Indiana should not have surprised anyone, especially after the way he spoke about his teammates during the postseason. Pritchard simply thought he had more time to attempt to change the All-Star swingman’s mind.