For as much as Paul George wants to united with his teammates, he longs to feel separated.

Not from his Indiana Pacers. No, George will take high-profile national interview requests and ask to bring his friends along. George wants to be known as a man apart amongst his peers.

Detached from players like John Wall, the top NBA pick of his draft class. Above other rising small forwards like Nicolas Batum. And removed from the comparisons to peers like Gordon Hayward. So on Wednesday night, as the Pacers won 95-86, in spite of a strong effort from the overmatched Utah Jazz, George once again sought separation.

"I do it for more than just loving the game. I do it for really having a statement, being a statement," George said. "(Having), you know, the same legacy as guys like LeBron (James) and the big names have. I don't want to just be in this league and be in the middle pack. I want to be in the upper echelon of players in this league. Anytime I have an opportunity to separate myself from a guy who's in my same position or wants the same goal, I try to do it."

It hasn't been enough that George signed the maximum contract with the Pacers last summer or that he just enjoyed another career-defining and star-making moment against Batum. George still finds motivation in being overlooked and forgotten three years ago.

On draft night, the Jazz selected Hayward, the Butler star fresh off an amazing March Madness run, with the ninth pick. George fell to Indiana at No. 10.

Though both players worked out for the Pacers that summer, the passage of time has revealed that Utah did Indiana a solid. In his brief career, Hayward has averaged 11 points and though George got the big payday, Hayward and the Jazz could not agree on a contract extension and so he will become a restricted free agent next summer.

Still, this fact of their obvious separation does not appease George.

"This is another opportunity. This is another team that took another player ahead of me," George said. "Not so much (going against) Gordon but just another team that passed and looked over me. So it's just another statement game, just to prove my worth in this league."

George did not duplicate the 43-point career night he had in Portland, he only scored 19 pointsfor one of his worst shooting performances of the season (7-of-20). So, with the cold touch ruining his offensive statistics, George aimed at Hayward another way. He bullied Hayward on one end and defended him strong whenever their paths crossed.

"Gordon Hayward is a good friend of mine," George said. "Someone I'm always pulling for — I pull for all the guys in my draft, except for when I'm going against him."

At the 4:18 mark of the first quarter when the Jazz mixed up the rotation, Hayward, who started at shooting guard, took the George defensive assignment. Right out of an inbounds play, George completely lost Hayward on a screen and scored on a lob at the basket.

More George v. Hayward matchups developed in the second quarter, each time the subtle difference between the basketball players became evident. While Hayward ran around screens, George — who isn't known for being the strongest guy – frequently knocked him off his path and Hayward could not find catch-and-shoot opportunities.

Then on consecutive transition plays, George nearly deflected a long outlet pass intended for Hayward but wound up fouling him. On the very next time down the court, George took off like a wide receiver to receive the pass. Hayward, too, bumped him but the difference — George was able to still get the ball up to the rim and drew a shooting foul while earlier, Hayward could not.

Besides their individual differences, George has something else over Hayward — teammates around him who can finish plays. After trailing through most of the game, the Pacers closed the third quarter on a 12-2 run. During that same stretch, when Hayward drew David West to commit to him defensively, he found Enes Kanter who could not convert the open layup.

Before the game, Hayward admitted that he, too, enjoys playing against his draft class peers.

"Especially Paul George," Hayward said, "(who) is somebody I played against in the summer as well. So it's always exciting to go against guys that you know and guys that you've been with."