According to a person with knowledge of George’s thinking who spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the situation, the money doesn’t matter nearly as much to him as most might assume. Yes, there’s a gap of more than $70 million between the five-year deal the Pacers could have given George and the four-year deal he could get from other teams in free agency next summer. And yes, the possibility still exists that – if George made an All-NBA team next season – the Pacers could still give him a supermax next offseason (or, of course, run the massive risk of losing him for nothing in free agency).
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But after making it all the way back from his horrific leg break in the summer of 2014, and threatening to unseat the great LeBron James in those back-to-back Heat-Pacers conference finals, George finds himself more focused on legacy than ever. And whether it’s realistic or not, the 27-year-old who grew up idolizing Bryant in Palmdale, Calif. clearly believes he can lift the Lakers out of the darkness. The question now, it seems, is whether the Lakers will have the necessary patience and prudence on their end to make the most of their situation.
Why? Because this isn’t just about the money. It’s about winning. And if he can’t win at the highest level in Indiana, where the four-time All-Star has been since the Pacers drafted him 10th overall back in 2010, then it’s off to Laker Land he’ll go – either via trade or in free agency next summer.
George had his own sit-down with Kimmel Monday night, and he did his best to not get himself in trouble when asked if that moment would have any affect on him moving forward. “No man. I love Magic, (he’s a) great dude,” George said, before laughing when Kimmel responded by saying that it was good he thought that because he was going to be working for him with the Lakers. “I know I’m always going to get those L.A. ties, man. I’m an L.A. kid,” George said, before joking that former Lakers star Kobe Bryant is a bigger deal in his family household than he even is.
Still, he wasn’t quite willing to demand a trade to the Lakers on air, even if he didn’t exactly shut-down speculation that he’d rather be a Laker than a Pacer when Kimmel mentioned that all the speculation was a “worst-case scenario” for the Pacers. “It is. I love Indiana, man, it’s really a hard,” George said, trailing off.
Bird leaves the franchise at a crucial crossroads, with possible free agency looming for franchise star Paul George in the summer of 2018. The Pacers will have to decide on whether to continue to work on selling George on a future with the franchise, or consider the possibility of trading him to extract maximum value before George can leave in free agency.
Albert Nahmad: The power of the new designated veteran player rules will be in full display with Paul George this summer, even if he doesn’t make All-NBA. Pacers can give Paul George a DVP payout if gets All-NBA this season OR next season. By trading him, they’d lose 2nd major shot to keep him. Paul George has been an All-NBA player before. Making it again is not unrealistic. Which gives Pacers and trade partners lots to consider. Pacers need to decide whether they want to trade Paul George, who may not be able to pass up DVP money to stay if earns All-NBA next season. Even if Paul George requests a trade and says he won’t re-sign with the Pacers, he might reconsider if he has an extra $75M on the line!
Albert Nahmad: Potential trade partners for Paul George must decide whether to give up big assets to get him this summer (knowing he could walk away next). If a team waits to try to sign Paul George in free agency next summer, they risk possibly losing the chance if he makes All-NBA next season. The possibility of Paul George making All-NBA next season is just another way the DVP rules can impact decisions about star-level players.
Joseph Horner: Same with Hayward. Interesting idea. – RT: Albert Nahmad: The power of the new designated veteran player rules will be in full display with Paul George this summer, even if he doesn’t make All-NBA. Pacers can give Paul George a DVP payout if gets All-NBA this season OR next season. By trading him, they’d lose 2nd major shot to keep him. Paul George has been an All-NBA player before. Making it again is not unrealistic. Which gives Pacers and trade partners lots to consider. Pacers need to decide whether they want to trade Paul George, who may not be able to pass up DVP money to stay if earns All-NBA next season. Even if Paul George requests a trade and says he won’t re-sign with the Pacers, he might reconsider if he has an extra $75M on the line!
Brian Dulik: #Pacers SF Paul George on entering free agency in July: “I’m not at that point yet. Next question.” #NBA
Brian Dulik: #Pacers SF Paul George on thinking about his future: “My exit meeting is tomorrow. I’ll wait til that time. I’ll wait til that time.” #NBA
Sam Amick: I repeat: Paul George – barring a title chance in Indy – is hell-bent on heading for Laker Land. This message has been sent throughout NBA.
Although the Lakers have entertained trade discussions with the Indiana Pacers for small forward Paul George, league sources familiar with the situation said it’s more likely the Lakers will wait to pursue him when he becomes an unrestricted free agent in the 2018 offseason. Then, the Lakers would not have to surrender any of their young assets.
For teams considering a trade for George, here’s the risk: As a free agent in the summer of 2018, he has considered re-signing with Indiana or joining his hometown Los Angeles Lakers, sources tell The Vertical.
Indiana continues to reject any calls about George, per several league sources. They are banking on the new CBA to help retain George; if he makes the All-NBA team this season, they could offer him the new designated mega-extension before he even hits free agency — a super-rich contract no rival could approach.
Bird: “I don’t want to get into Paul’s free agency. Before the year started, I told Paul and I said, ‘Look, if you want to sign a long-term deal, we’re willing to do that max (contract) and if you want to wait, I understand.’ But this year, we’re not going to worry about it, we’re not going to talk about it and he’s going to make the decision that’s best for Paul when it comes down to it.”
Do you see any changes in the new collective bargaining agreement having any impact on George’s free agency or is your position still the same in terms of offering him the max, whether it’s five years or six years? Bird: “Yeah, we want to keep him here long term. That’s the plan.”
Sources close to the situation say Indiana remains optimistic that the new Designated Player Exception will allow them to retain George long-term, assuming he makes one of the All-NBA teams this season.
In two years, two sons of Southern California – Indiana’s Paul George and Oklahoma City’s Westbrook – can become free agents and consider coming home. In their recent state of disrepair, the Lakers have been fully unappealing to superstar free agents. Kevin Durant wouldn’t take a meeting with them. The Lakers called the reps of Memphis’ Mike Conley on July 1, only to be told they wouldn’t be seriously considered. Miami center Hassan Whiteside passed, too.
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