INDIANAPOLIS — After getting booed each time he touched the ball Monday as if it were his first time back in Indiana, Paul George said he enjoys playing the role of the villain but that Pacers fans are taking out their frustration out on the wrong person.
George scored 36 points and nine rebounds to lead the LA Clippers to a 110-99 win over the Pacers, but he wasn’t done responding to the home crowd that got on him so much that at one point he put his finger over his mouth to silence the fans.
“I’m not surprised,” George said of being booed despite it being his third time back in Indianapolis. “That’s Indiana for you. It’s a Hoosier thing.”
George then cryptically said that one day he will tell his side of the story that led to his trade request from the Pacers in 2017.
“You know, someday I’ll do a tell-all and tell the leading events of how I left Indiana,” George said. “And I promise you, I’m not the one to boo.”
“… I’m not gonna share the teaser,” George later added. “… 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.”
While George wouldn’t elaborate on whom he was talking about, the Clippers’ All-Star said he wouldn’t say anything negative about Kevin Pritchard when told that the Pacers general manager thought George’s trade request was like a punch to the gut.
“You’re getting close to trying to get this story out, aren’t you?” George asked. “… I’m not going to bad-mouth KP. That’s just Kevin’s side of the story.”
George spent seven seasons in Indiana before requesting a trade in 2017. He told ESPN that he initially requested a trade to San Antonio to join forces with Kawhi Leonard, but the Spurs did not have enough assets to make a deal with Indiana. George also had the Lakers on his list, but the Pacers ultimately traded George to Oklahoma City.
Every time George touched the ball Monday, he was booed by the fans. At times, fans cheered, “Paul George s—!” Whenever George drew a foul — he went to the line 11 times — he drew loud jeers.
George did put his finger over his mouth at one point in the first half to silence the fans following a driving layup. But really for the third time in a row against the Pacers, he let his game do the talking. This was the third straight time George scored 31 or more points against his old team.
“Yeah, I was shocked,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said of the reaction George received. “I really was … I was ill-equipped.
“It was offensive to me,” Rivers added with a chuckle. “But I was unprepared for that. I thought that, I didn’t know it was bad feelings and it was lingering. Obviously, it was.”
The Clippers (18-7) will be making another “return game” on Wednesday when Leonard makes his highly anticipated return to Toronto and receives his championship ring. Except this time, the Clippers expect the reception to be a celebration of Leonard’s delivering Canada its first NBA championship.
“The opposite of what it was like tonight,” George said with a laugh.
The Clippers got an early preview of what could come when they played an exhibition in Vancouver in October, and Leonard was cheered. Rivers expects a hero’s welcoming on Wednesday.
“Oh, that will be easy,” Rivers said when asked about what will happen in Toronto. “That’s a standing ovation. Really, I don’t think that is very hard. We got a taste of that in Vancouver.
“So if I’m a fan base and a guy won me a title, I might retire his jersey that night.”
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