In the fiercely competitive realm of the NBA, the Indiana Pacers are steering towards an optimistic horizon, with Tyrese Haliburton leading the pack. Yet, before the era of Haliburton, Domantas Sabonis, and Victor Oladipo, there stood a colossus named Paul George.
For seasons on end, George was the beacon of hope for Indiana, propelling the Pacers to numerous Eastern Conference finals. But, the pinnacle of NBA glory—the Finals—remained just out of reach. Spearheading the team's efforts, George had been instrumental in driving the Pacers to the Eastern Conference finals in consecutive years—2013 and 2014.
However, 2014 saw a tragic twist of fate that not only altered the trajectory of George's career but cast a shadow over the Pacers' legacy. That fateful incident unfolded while George was donning the Team USA jersey. A grotesque leg injury benched him for most of the 2014-15 season.
Despite making a comeback in 2015-16, the Pacers' spirit and gameplay bore the brunt of his absence.
George's Championship What-If
The question looms: what if Paul George hadn't been sidelined by that devastating injury? George himself has insights.
Recently on "The Stephen A. Smith Show", he made a profound revelation that had his health not been compromised, a championship would've been within the Pacers' grasp. As George reflected, “The worst part was that the life was taken away from that team...
after that injury, and that window was closed for us in Indiana. I firmly believe we'd have seized a championship had I been injury-free during that crucial phase”. Post-injury, George showcased his calibre with two consecutive All-Star seasons in Indiana.
However, the winds of change soon swept through, and he was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder, ushering in Oladipo and Sabonis to the Pacers’ roster. During George's tenure with the Thunder, he was in the MVP and DPOY contention, finishing in the top three.
Meanwhile, the Pacers grappled with a transitional phase. From 2017 to 2020, the post-George era, the Pacers consistently reached the playoffs but faced first-round exits. It highlighted a pattern—the third, fourth, and fifth consecutive years where the Pacers’ championship dreams were quashed in the initial round.