In the eyes of Indiana fans, Paul George is now a villain as a Clipper and not the hero he had been playing for the Pacers for the first seven years of his NBA career.
They booed George from the time he was introduced and throughout his 35 minutes and 45 seconds of playing time Monday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, even directing derisive chants at him.
The unpleasantries George had to endure only seemed to fuel him to push the injury-depleted Clippers to a 110-99 win over the Pacers before 14,644 fans. George was lively in responding to the boos with 36 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
“Nah, I’m not surprised,” George said when asked about the boos. “That’s Indiana for you. It’s a Hoosier thing.”
George blossomed into an All-Star in Indiana from 2010 to 2017. But when he requested a trade and was shipped to Oklahoma City, the lovefest between George and the Pacers’ faithful quickly dissolved.
George was booed when he came back with the Thunder the last two years and got the same treatment in his return with the Clippers.
“Someday I’ll do a tell-all and tell the leading events of how I left Indiana. And I promise you I’m not the one to boo,” George said.
George was asked if he could give the media a teaser.
“I’m not gonna share the teaser,” George said. “I like being the villain. I’m here two nights out of the year. The people they should boo is here a lot longer than I am.”
George was told that Pacers general manager Kevin Pritchard said it was a gut-punch that George requested a trade and wanted to leave Indiana.
“You’re getting close to trying to get this story out, aren’t you?” George said. “That’s his side of the story. I’m not going to bad-mouth KP. That’s just Kevin’s side of the story.”
George didn’t have his running mate Kawhi Leonard because the fellow star forward was out with a sore left knee, according to the Clippers’ injury report. It was the seventh game Leonard has missed this season and the third because of back-to-back games.
Presumably Leonard will play Wednesday when the Clippers play the Raptors in Toronto. It’ll be his first time back in the city since he directed the Raptors to the NBA championship last season.
When the Clippers played an exhibition in Vancouver in October, Leonard got a standing ovation.
Coach Doc Rivers said he’s sure what will happen Wednesday.
“That’s a standing ovation,” Rivers said. “ Really, I don’t think that is very hard. We got a taste of that in Vancouver. We saw it in an exhibition game because Kawhi was in town. So if I’m a fan base and a guy won me a title, I might retire his jersey that night.”
The Clippers were even more shorthanded because forward JaMychal Green (bruised tailbone) and guards Landry Shamet (ankle sprain) and Rodney McGruder (hamstring strain) also were out.
But Montrezl Harrell (26 points) and Patrick Beverley (11 points, 12 rebounds) stepped up, and George made sure the Clippers were ready, despite the boos.
“I was shocked. I really was,” Rivers said. “Honestly I didn’t know … It was offensive to me. But I was unprepared for that. ...
“I didn’t know it was bad feelings and it was lingering. Obviously it was.”