Indiana Pacers general manager Kevin Pritchard addressed the media following the 2017 NBA Draft. Most of the conversation didn’t surround first-round pick T.J. Leaf. Instead, Pritchard had to address the Paul George situation at almost every turn.
To his credit, the first-year head executive did not refrain from giving his feelings on George.
It was just a week ago that the All-Star told the Pacers that he was not going to re-sign with the team as a free agent next summer. For Pritchard and the rest of the Pacers’ front office, it caught them off guard big time.
“For me it was a gut-punch,” Pritchard shared early into Friday morning. “It was a total gut-punch because we’d had many conversations over the summer about players that we’d like to add, a little bit of the style that we’d like to play, and I was, in my opinion, very inclusive with him. And the message over the summer, up until this weekend was ‘Let’s build a winning team.’ And so when that came in that he wanted to look at another place, it was a gut-punch for us.”
To be fair to George, he had expressed frustration with the Pacers’ direction months back. It isn’t like this came completely out of let field.
The issue here for Indiana is that reports of George wanting out surfaced less than a week before the 2017 NBA Draft. This placed the team behind the proverbial eight-ball.
“It couldn’t have come at a worse time for me,” Pritchard continued. “If we would’ve known this a little longer ago or a few months ago, I think we could have been a little bit more prepared. And then the way it got out … we struggled with that.”
Ultimately, the Pacers did not move George during the draft. They were in conversations with multiple teams, but nothing got done on that front.
Though, there’s every reason to believe that George will be moved between now and the start of the regular season. The only question here is whether it will be to his home-town Los Angeles Lakers.
For Pritchard and the Pacers, it’s now all about going full-scale rebuild. George was the face of a roster that found itself swept out of the first round of the playoffs. Without him, we’re looking at a lottery team here.