Storyline: Paul George Free Agency

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“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.
3 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!
7 months ago via ESPN

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.

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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