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.
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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.
“Paul George is not staying in Indiana,” Dudley, 31, said positively. “What you do now is you can force a team for a trade. He can get to L.A. He can get to the Lakers or Clippers. He’s going to make them trade [him] in February [by the trade deadline] and then he’ll sign the five-year max there.
Whether in free agency two summers from now or via trade before then, the four-time All-Star is still hell-bent on joining the Los Angeles Lakers. Maybe now more than ever.
Bird, according to sources, was unwilling to trade George before the NBA’s trade deadline in February. With Bird no longer making the Pacers’ top basketball decisions, a trade to ensure the Pacers receive compensation for George could become more of a possibility this summer. If George doesn’t make one of the All-NBA teams, he could re-sign with the Pacers for approximately $180 million over five years. In either case, he can sign with another team for four years and about $130 million.
Lakers president Magic Johnson jokingly made his desire to have George in a purple and gold uniform known publicly during an interview last week with late-night talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel, laughing and winking about how he was well-versed on tampering and couldn’t recruit a player under contract with another team. And one of the league’s worst-kept secrets is that the Lakers have a strong appeal for George given their proximity to his hometown of Palmdale, Calif., and his affinity for Kobe Bryant, even though George actually grew up a fan of the Clippers.
A SoCal native, he’s been talking about playing for his hometown team, the Lakers, for a long time. He’s never made his long-term intentions a secret within the Pacers’ locker room, according to former teammates. He wants to wear the purple and gold.
So it’s no surprise that Johnson will probably pursue George and set out to build a title team around him, according to multiple sources who have known Johnson over the years.
Magic said: “I had to go to school. I had to go to CBA school, salary cap school and tampering school (laughs). You can’t tamper with somebody else’s player.” Jimmy followed that up by questioning what Magic would do if he saw Paul George while on vacation. Here’s Magic’s answer: “No, we gonna say hi because we know each other, you just can’t say, ‘Hey, I want you to come to the Lakers,’ even though I’ll be wink winking like (winks a bunch of times) you know what that means right?”
Johnson beat Bird to it. The phone call lasted less than five minutes, consisted mostly of small talk and might have touched only briefly on the fate of Indiana star Paul George. “I wasn’t motivated to move Paul George at the deadline,” Bird said. “I can’t remember if it was even brought up or not. I don’t think it was. It’s all fake news anyway. You know that. Somebody’s gonna start it and [it] just was a snowball effect. [The phone call] was not about Paul George.”
Sam Amick on Paul George and the Lakers: I guarantee you he feels a lot better now because Magic is there. The problem they had before, these guys like Russell Westbrook and Paul George who grew up Lakers fans, they would see the purple and gold logo and the Staples Center, then they would see Jim Buss in an arena or on a picture on the Internet and they would just kind of go ‘Oh boy.’ He just doesn’t have a resume.
“Here’s the issue with Paul George: he’s made it clear that if he’s going to leave Indiana, he’s going home to L.A.,” said Wojnarowski. “He grew up in southern California. Big Kobe Bryant fan. His dad is a big Magic Johnson fan. Obviously Magic is running the organization now. “The direction that I was told that the Lakers got in the last couple of days was ‘hey, don’t gut your team to go get Paul George.’
“Magic Johnson did lob a call to Larry Bird, but if you’re the Lakers and you don’t have a tremendous amount of assets, they have some young players they hope will develop. They’re going to sit back and wait to sign him as a free agent. They’re going to have cap space in 2018. “If they were to try to trade for him, they would have to give up the core of their team and Paul George is going to have no one to play with there. “I think this is how the Pacers are looking at this. All things being equal, they know that Paul George would rather be in L.A., but they are not equal.”
The deadline expired with Paul George staying put with the Indiana Pacers and the Lakers making a minor move elsewhere. The Lakers did inquire about George, but talks did not go beyond the preliminary stages.
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.
Chris Haynes: Teams mulling Paul George trade apprehensive knowing he wants to win w/Pacers, Plan B is Lakers. He won’t commit longterm outside those two.
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.
The Los Angeles Lakers are among the teams to have inquired about the availability of Indiana Pacers star forward Paul George in recent days, according to league sources.
While the conversation didn’t go beyond an initial expression of interest — which is common in the NBA in advance of the trade deadline — it’s notable simply for the names involved: New Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and Pacers president Larry Bird, lifelong rivals and close friends, were on the phone together.
Sources confirmed to ESPN in the wake of that meeting with Simon that Indiana has since invited teams like the Lakers and Boston Celtics to make pitches for George this week in advance of Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET trade deadline.
Jake Fischer: As detailed yesterday, several sources suggested Lakers didn’t offer Ingram-for-Boogie to chase Paul George instead http://on.si.com/2lGKStV
Sam Amico: Sources: Magic plans to call Larry about Paul George. Michael not yet involved. Basketball’s holy trinity marches on at NBA trade deadline.
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.
The Lakers called about Boogie, but ultimately valued Brandon Ingram too much to reel in the Kings center. Several league sources also suggested the Lakers aren’t offering Ingram as they chase other superstars (George and Butler) too.
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.
Bill Simmons: Also hearing that the Lakers want to make a BIG run at Paul George with their top-3 pick plus other stuff. (Not that they’d get him…)
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