Former Pacer Paul George: 'I felt like the window had closed'

INDIANAPOLIS -- Paul George believed the Indiana Pacers' "window had closed" when he told his former team he would not re-sign. 

George was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder in June for guard Victor Oladipo and forward Domantas Sabonis.

In a recent interview with Sports Illustrated, George said he understands why some Pacers fans were upset about the way he left Indiana.

"There’s no right way to handle it," George said. "I get the frustration. I get why people are upset. But at the same time, I want the average fan to understand that we only get a small window to play this game and more than anything you want to be able to play for a championship. I wanted to bring that to Indiana. I really did. I love Indiana. That will always be a special place for me and I’m sorry for not holding on. But I wasn’t sure we’d ever get a team together to compete for a championship and that’s where all this came from."

George said he felt a shift in the team's plans, and in himself. Three years ago, George Hill, David West and Roy Hibbert and George were part of a core that made the Eastern Conference Finals. All other players have left the team.

"Here I am, the last guy, and I kind of felt a rebuild coming," George said. "I felt like the window had closed. I thought they were going in a different direction and I wanted to go in a different direction."

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He told the Pacers he would not re-sign after his contract was up following the 2017-18 season. Many believed he would go to the Los Angeles Lakers as a free agent -- his interest in the team is no secret.

“I idolized Kobe," George said. "There will always be a tie here, a connection here. People saying I want to come here, who doesn’t want to play for their hometown? That’s a dream come true, if you’re a kid growing up on the outskirts of L.A., to be the man in your city."

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But, the now-Oklahoma City Thunder player said, his interest in L.A. has been "overstated."

"For me, it’s all about winning," he said. "I want to be in a good system, a good team. I want a shot to win it. I’m not a stats guy. I’m playing this game to win and build a legacy of winning. I’ve yet to do that. I’m searching for it. If we get a killer season in Oklahoma, we make the conference finals or upset the Warriors or do something crazy, I’d be dumb to want to leave that.”

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