Storyline: Paul George Free Agency

108 rumors in this storyline

Paul George’s candidness is unique. I can’t recall a player so openly flirting with the idea of leaving his current team. But what does it all mean, anyway? The latest noise from NBA executives is more of the same. Most buy into the fact George is drawn by Los Angeles and will leave unless the Thunder reach the NBA Finals. Others have become increasingly skeptical that he’d leave Oklahoma City. One executive said via text on Sunday that he could see George signing a one-year extension with the Thunder then reviewing his options for 2019 when a larger chunk of star free agents to potentially team up with will be available. The same is true for LeBron James, who led the rejuvenated Cavaliers to four straight wins entering the break.

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How much emotional investment should I place in Paul George playing well for the Thunder? My heart can’t take another Kevin Durant situation. What’s your read? — Nicholas Quah STEIN: C’mon, Nicholas. It’s Valentine’s Day. Didn’t you hear what Selena Gomez said? The heart wants what it wants. This is sports, man. Don’t be rational. Go all-in on PG-13 staying with the Thunder. Of course, you’d be running the risk of heartbreak — again — but save your caution for the roadways and the rest of real life. If you can’t boundlessly wish and hope when it comes to your team, whoever it is, what’s the point? The signals George has been giving off so far, by the way, are as positive as they could possibly be at this point of the season. He’s not going to commit to staying in Oklahoma City in February, but there is legit hope that the idea is growing on him. Be brave. Dream big.

“Well, I mean I’m happy here,” George said. “I’m happy here. I’m happy with this group. At the end of the season, it’s still on my decision on what I need to do for my family. That has nothing to do with my happiness here though. I’ve been really happy. It’s a great organization to be a part of, but again, you know, I don’t want people looking at this and (saying) like, ‘Hey, because he said it’s his happiness at the end of the day (that he’s definitely re-signing).

Paul George feels “a real brotherhood” with Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony, he told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols in a sit-down interview, which aired Sunday. Talk of the Los Angeles Lakers has surrounded the five-time All-Star, who will become a free agent at the end of this season. The Lakers are not only George’s hometown team. He also requested to be traded there when he informed the Indiana Pacers he would not be re-signing come 2018 free agency. George has, however, been complimentary of the Oklahoma City Thunder since the team traded for him over the summer.

The Lakers, even have beating the Thunder on Sunday, have struggled, and talk of them bringing in multiple max free agents this summer, while still certainly possible, is not as emphatic around the NBA as it was at the start of the year. Part of that is because people aren’t as pessimistic about the Thunder’s chances of re-signing their best two-way player. “Of course, LA is home, so that’s always going draw the attention. But we’ll see. I won’t rule anything out, but I’m definitely happy where I’m at,” Paul George said to ESPN. “I like where we’re going, and I want to see how this unfolds.”

Happily, at long last for the Lakers, they’re warming up, if not red hot. It may be because Magic, still a charismatic figure, is in charge, or that Kupchak did a good job before being fired so that they finally have the right young players, even if none of them is Joel Embiid or Karl-Anthony Towns. Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma are showing signs of being special, as has Lonzo Ball in an earlier stage of development. Julius Randle, thought to be outward bound for cap room, has clawed his way up the pecking order. A year ago if you asked how many of their players had shown they were special as opposed to merely promising, the answer would have been none. Magic still dreams like a Laker, targeting the top free agents: Bron, Paul George and, at least until last week’s injury, DeMarcus Cousins.

When Larry Nance Jr. hears rumors about LeBron James, Paul George and/or DeMarcus Cousins potentially joining the Lakers, does he get excited? “Um, hmm. So-so. I mean, like I said, there are rumors that LeBron is going to go [everywhere]. There are rumors about everything. Obviously, everybody knows about the Paul George stuff and that whole saga. Now there’s [talk like], ‘LeBron may come to L.A. and he just bought a house there]!’ And yeah, we read all of that. We read all of the clickbait stuff. But in reality, we’re just focused on what’s in front of us. We’re just trying to be the best team we can be and if someone like LeBron James or Paul George or one of those stars does come here in the summer, then it’s like, ‘Whew! That would increase our win total by, like, 20!’ You read it. You look at it. But in terms of paying attention to it? Not too much.”

1 month ago via ESPN

Paul George hints at OKC return

A day after Russell Westbrook called his All-Star snub “outrageous,” Paul George told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols it was “awesome” to see his Thunder teammate support him, while also noting Westbrook is making George’s future free-agency decision “easier” to make. “Russ is the reason why this decision is becoming even more easier to make, is the character Russ [has],” George said on Wednesday. “A stand-up guy, and he has his teammate’s back.”

Sam Amick on Paul George’s future: “I’m torn on this one. I might have spent a little bit too much time with Paul out in Oklahoma City. Going into this season, I got a strong sense [he would stay]. I know you remember when he came out strong and said that the Thunder had already done everything to prove that they’re a championship-caliber organization. He set this early tone that he didn’t want to go anywhere. But we all knew that we’d have to see how it all played out. I feel like I’m on the fence here. The Lakers thing is real, but he has said consistently that winning and the long-term view and the on-court stuff is the No. 1 factor. So I’m going to take him at his word. I can’t really answer [where he lands] until I know what this OKC team does. We do know this: He has said it’s not a ‘championship or bust’ equation in his head.

Sam Amick: So Paul is on record saying they don’t have to win it all this year for him to want to come back. Does that mean they have to make the Conference Finals? Does that mean it just depends on how he’s feeling [about the situation] even if they only make it to the second round? The playoffs are going to be big. He likes the group. He likes the organization. They’re starting to work out the kinks and figuring out how to all play together… I’m going to say let’s wait until the playoffs and see what happens [before predicting what George will do].”

It would be silly for George to tip his hand when he hasn’t seen all his cards yet. Any combo of Banana Boat riders and him would be formidable anywhere, and the pull of Los Angeles is strong throughout the league. But the Thunder aren’t folding, either. OKC has Westbrook, and it has Anthony, and it has George’s Bird Rights, and that’s way more than almost anybody else is showing at the moment. “Of course, I keep saying L.A. is home, so it’s always going to be a destination,” George said. “But again, I’ll be stupid if we make the conference finals, or we go neck and neck with the Warriors, and this being our first year together, I’d be stupid to walk away from that.”
2 months ago via ESPN

“I’ve been dealing with this L.A. stuff for so long, it’s easy to tunnel-vision it, block it all and throw the blinders and shades on,” he said. “I’m a Thunder. I could care less of what speculation is, or what rumors are; I’m enjoying where I’m at right now, I’m enjoying this process, I’m enjoying growing with these guys in this locker room. I’m not worried or dealing with that until the summer’s here. “I’m fine where we’re at, and I’m fine where I’m at.”

Michael Lee on Paul George’s free agency: “I think he wants to win, first and foremost. I think he’d love to win in L.A., knowing what success in Los Angeles can do for you from a business perspective, from a marketing perspective and just from a legacy perspective. If you win with the Lakers, you’re elevated to a higher place since it’s a storied franchise and the league’s glamour spot. If he could win there, I think that would be great for him. But I think his No. 1 objective is that he wants to win. I mean, he’s 27 now; he’s not getting any younger, he’s in his prime and he’s overcome a lot to get back to being an elite player again. He’s going to explore everything, but I think he’ll go with the place that gives him the best shot at winning. If he can’t find a place where winning at a high level is inevitable, going home is probably his next best option.”

In some circles, the Lakers are still considered the front-runners. The Thunder hasn’t given George many reasons to commit long-term, even after OKC GM Sam Presti was hailed for trading off four role players for George and Anthony. Reigning MVP Russell Westbrook has looked lost with George and Anthony. At the core of the problem: They’ve got three prolific scorers who are most suited for iso-ball, not for playing the team-oriented brand of basketball played by West-leading Houston and the Warriors. At 12-13 and coming off a home loss to Charlotte, which had won only one road game all season, the Thunder has the 25th offensive rating, at 102.1. They’ve lost a host of games after squandering big leads. “At some point it’s got to stop,’’ George said earlier this week.

Natural speculation has followed, something George is used to from his former days with the Indiana Pacers and from previous reports about him potentially ending up with the Los Angeles Lakers once he hits free agency in 2018. “I’ve been so used to that type of chatter, being in Indiana, the whole L.A. [thing], I’ve been used to that,” he said Tuesday. “So, it doesn’t get to me. At the end of the day, it’s my decision, and I’ve always been happy where I’m at and what decision I make. So, I’m happy. Put it like that. I’m happy.”

The source says George has been impressed by the culture of the Thunder and how meticulous general manager Sam Presti and the organization are in building the roster and the franchise. George was impressed that the front office “had the (guts),” in the source’s words, to put everything on the line in getting him, and followed it up by getting Anthony without giving up any of the team’s core group. (The Thunder showed who it thought was more important to the team by re-signing defensive hound/offensive liability Andre Roberson for $30 million over three years, while including the offensively potent but defensively sieve-like Enes Kanter in the Anthony trade.)

It all adds up to a message by the Thunder — we want to win, and we will take care of our players — that George has heard loud and clear before playing his first game in an Oklahoma City uniform. “We’ve been on an unbelievable start right now, and for him to be committed here, it says a lot,” he told the media on Saturday. “Not only in us pairing together, but just knowing what type of dude Russ is and his values and his beliefs and him being committed to this organization says a lot. And I’m one person that’s enjoying it here, so I think when (free agency) comes, the decision will be easier to make for myself.”
5 months ago via ESPN

While Westbrook’s future is settled, and George’s now lurches to the forefront, Anthony dismissed any talk of what he might be thinking long term. “I’m gonna tell you right now, I’m not even answering those questions,” Anthony said. “I don’t even want to touch those questions right now. I don’t even want to alter my focus and my vision right now, being in training camp and trying to get things rolling, trying to establish/re-establish something here.”

“Pelinka for sure knows how to tamper without getting caught,” one agent told me. “Pelinka will do whatever it takes to get players. Magic could easily have done something dumb and got caught for it, though.” The only difference between what teams usually do and this is that a complaint was filed, and the league must investigate. It’s possible that Magic slipped somewhere with an incriminating text or email. After all, he even went on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and joked about tampering.

George will get four eyefuls this season of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and the young Lakers. Superficial measurements will matter far less than max slots and won-loss records. “It’s too early for L.A.,” he says. “It would have to be a situation where the ball gets rolling and guys are hopping on. This guy commits, that guy commits. ‘Oh s—, now there’s a team forming.’ It has to be like that.” But the same is true for virtually every locale outside of Oakland. “I’m in OKC, so hopefully me and Russ do a good enough job and make it to the conference finals and love the situation, why not recruit someone to come build it with us? I’m open in this whole process.”

Miller said George has a “love affair” with the L.A. life, but the man who was No. 58 on Forbes’ list of world’s highest paid athletes for 2017 still voluntarily finds his way to anti-Hollywood. George is the ringleader of the pickup games, which include the 5-foot-7 Miller. “It’s on him,” Miller said about George pulling together the games. “He’ll pass on the word from there.” “Our gym is always going to kind of be a special place for kids in our program they enjoy coming back and reliving those memories,” said Tom Hegre, George’s high school coach. “Where you grow up is where you have memories.”

Q: Can the Thunder extend George’s contract? A: Technically, yes. In reality, no. The Thunder doesn’t have the cap space necessary to renegotiate and extend George’s deal. That would require nearly $10 million in cap space to bring his salary to his max. Don’t expect Oklahoma City to gut pieces of the team just to do this. It wants to build a team with depth. Without that option, George would have to opt into his 2018-19 year in order to extend his contract. That calls for him to earn $20.7 million, which is way below his market value. A hypothetical extension would be based off that amount, not automatically ratcheted up to his max salary.
8 months ago via ESPN

Given what else was out there, this is a disappointing return for Indiana and new president Kevin Pritchard, even with the Pacers negotiating from a position of weakness. Every team, even George’s suitors in Boston and Cleveland, thinks there is at least a 75 percent chance George stays true to his L.A. plans. The Lakers certainly think that. It is unclear if they even engaged the Pacers Friday night. They didn’t yield on either Brandon Ingram or Lonzo Ball, and if they are sure George is heading their way, they were right not to. The Pacers do not appear to have been interested in D’Angelo Russell. Time will tell on the L.A. front.

Although George’s feelings could change, especially if he is traded to a team he likes, the Lakers aren’t willing to part with too much to trade for him. Second-year forward Brandon Ingram, a favorite of the Lakers’ coaching staff, has caught Indiana’s eye, but is off limits. Without the help of a third team, the Lakers weren’t willing to part with the No. 2 overall pick before the draft — the pick they used to take former UCLA star Lonzo Ball.

What was your reaction when you first heard that Paul George wants to leave Indiana? Myles Turner: “The first thing I thought was, ‘Alright, well, what’s next?’ We have to start rebuilding and look at what we can do for our future. That was my initial thought. PG has to do what’s best for him and his family. He’s from L.A. so I feel like he’s always wanted to play with them. I think it was a childhood dream of his and you can’t take that personally. He’s been here in Indy for eight or nine years and done a great job here. If he wants to move onto other endeavors, you have to let him do what he wants to do. I don’t take it personally at all. He’s done great things here and I wish him all the best and good luck going forward.”

If Paul George does leave, you’re going to be the face of the franchise. Are you ready for that? Myles Turner: “Without a doubt. I’ve had two years of experience and I know that’s not a whole lot, but with [what I’ve done] in that little sample size, I feel like I’m ready to take on more. I want to become a leader – why not start early? I’m really looking forward to our future. I feel like with the right pieces, we can go young and build for the future. And I’m ready to lead this young movement.”

George hasn’t requested a trade before he can opt out of his 2018-19 contract, but did have his agent, Aaron Mintz, tell new Indiana president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard that he wanted to be forthright on his plans and spare the franchise any confusion about his intentions, league sources told The Vertical. George can sign a four-year deal worth as much as $130 million with Los Angeles next year. George is a Southern California native and playing for the Lakers would represent a homecoming for him.

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).

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.

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.

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!
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February 24, 2018 | 12:47 pm EST Update
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4 hours ago via ESPN
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4 hours ago via ESPN
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Asked how he appraised his $2 billion bid for the Clippers in 2014 — then a record for an NBA team — Ballmer said he relied on both quantitative analysis and intelligence of the marketplace and the pool of potential buyers. “I looked at what the cash flows would be, and what kind of multiple you’d put on,” Ballmer said. “A team in L.A. is literally beachfront real estate. It’s worth a lot more than teams everywhere else. Because if you ever get a foreign buyer later on — foreign buyers only want to buy in a few cities, which I knew because it was part of the pressure on the price. There was a lurking foreign buyer, if you will, for the team. But ultimately, I knew what the price was in the good old-fashioned way: I knew what the next bidder wanted to pay.”
4 hours ago via ESPN
February 24, 2018 | 11:03 am EST Update
The All-Star forward became the first player to ever post 45 points, 15 rebounds, five steals and five blocks in a game since the NBA started recording steals and blocks in 1973-74. Davis has been playing at an MVP level since the team lost star center DeMarcus Cousins to a season-ending Achilles injury, and it’s given New Orleans the belief that it can remain a contender in the ultra-competitive Western Conference playoff race. “I looked at the stat sheet when we were walking in and I couldn’t believe he had 45 points,” Gentry said. “That’s not a good thing because, now, I almost feel like I’m taking him for granted.”