Storyline: Paul George Trade?

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The league is watching the George situation very closely, and there’s a general belief that the Thunder will have to act if they haven’t significantly improved a few months from now (there are 29 games left before the deadline). With every George trade inquiry – whether it’s Presti on the call or recently returned front office mate/former Orlando Magic GM Rob Hennigan, who often handles such discussions for OKC – executives will be eager to exploit the situation.

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.

Paul George: About this summer… I contacted my guy Ryan Capretta @proactivesp immediately after losing in the playoffs and told him I’m on a mission this year to be the best. I wanted him to challenge me and push me harder than I’ve ever been pushed before. I knew I wasn’t good enough the past year and wanted to give my team more. Didn’t know I was gonna be traded but what happened, happened. Now I’m faced with the same mission to be the best playing along side the best and damn I’m excited about that! I got better and stronger fasho. Only time would tell. Thanks to everyone over at Proactive who also helped the kid! #ThunderUp #WhatAreYouCapableOf #PG1 #NoBrakes #TilICollapse

5 months ago via ESPN

Hours before the Oklahoma City Thunder pulled off a surprise trade to acquire Paul George from the Indiana Pacers on June 30, the Cleveland Cavaliers thought they had a done deal in place to nab the four-time All-Star. Nearly a month later, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert still doesn’t seem to be over it. “I will say that Indiana could’ve done better than it did,” Gilbert said Wednesday, when asked about the failed trade during new Cavs general manager Koby Altman’s introductory news conference.
5 months ago via ESPN

Hours before the Oklahoma City Thunder pulled off a surprise trade to acquire Paul George from the Indiana Pacers on June 30, the Cleveland Cavaliers thought they had a done deal in place to nab the four-time All-Star. Nearly a month later, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert still doesn’t seem to be over it. “I will say that Indiana could’ve done better than it did,” Gilbert said Wednesday when asked about the failed trade during new general manager Koby Altman’s introductory news conference.

The Oklahoma City Thunder has acquired forward Paul George from the Indiana Pacers in exchange for guard Victor Oladipo and forward Domantas Sabonis, Thunder Executive Vice President and General Manager Sam Presti announced today. George, (6-9, 220), averaged a career-high 23.7 points on a career-best 46.1 percent (622-of-1348 FG) shooting from the field and 39.3 percent (195-of-496 3FG) from long distance, 6.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.59 steals and 35.9 minutes in 75 games (all starts) with Indiana during the 2016-17 season.

“We are excited to welcome Paul George to the Thunder family and the Oklahoma City community,” said Presti. “Paul is a tremendous fit for our organization on and off the floor. He represents all the positive traits of an elite competitor, and we have long admired his relentless pursuit to improve and his ability to impact on-court success. His skill set is dynamic and at the forefront of the evolution of the game, yet he combines this with traditional and historical values and will. We are fortunate to have an incredibly unique player wear the Thunder Blue and know he will help us as we continue to build the legacy of the Thunder in real time.”
6 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.
6 months ago via ESPN

Timing and human dynamics play a role in high-pressure negotiations. The Celtics, Cavs, Nuggets, and Pacers have been talking off and on for weeks in what insiders described as an ongoing auction-style negotiation with shifting deadlines set by the Pacers. Boston and Indiana couldn’t agree on a deal before Friday, and with free agency looming, the Celtics had to turn their attention to Gordon Hayward. They wanted to sort that out first, and maintain space for Hayward, before sending away rotation players and picks for George. The lowered salary cap made any deal struck before free agency even trickier.

NBA executives are just as stunned as you are that the Pacers traded Paul George to the Thunder for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. Seconds after the trade broke, one agent texted me nine consecutive tears-of-joy emojis. Front offices top to bottom are often huddled together at the start of free agency, doing their best to strategize their team’s future — when the news of the trade broke, one Eastern Conference war room erupted in one collective “WHAAAAAAAATTTT????!!” A Western Conference front office executive said, “There were at least three or four teams that had objectively better offers.”

What were those “objectively” better offers? Two league sources said Indiana’s demand was “two starters and three picks.” The Celtics and Nuggets were two of the teams making strong pushes for George, per multiple league front-office sources, while the Cavaliers were likely one of the others. ESPN’s Jeff Goodman reported the Celtics were offering Jae Crowder and another starter, with three other first-round picks, which aligns with the outlined trade structure above. The Nuggets reportedly put together a “monster” package for George at the deadline, and most recently had put Emmanuel Mudiay on the table, per one league source.

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.

If the Celtics are indeed destined to trade for Paul George, they are probably just at the beginning of a long process in their dealings with Indiana general manager Kevin Pritchard. A league source said today that the Celtics are waiting to hear back from Pritchard, who as of draft night was asking for next year’s Nets’ and Lakers’ first-round picks, which are both under Celtics control. Pritchard also wants starting-caliber players included in the deal.
6 months ago via ESPN

As the Boston Celtics and president of basketball operations Danny Ainge await their chance to make a pitch to Hayward after free agency begins Saturday, Ainge’s son Tanner, who is running for Congress in Utah, has repeatedly expressed a desire for Hayward to stay with the Jazz. Late Wednesday night, Tanner Ainge tweeted at Hayward with a link to a news story about how Massachusetts is considering a “millionaire’s tax” that could eventually elevate the tax burden for high-earners.

Rockets after Paul George now?

According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, the Rockets are not stopping now, however, as they reportedly have their sights set on Paul George. Windhorst appeared on SportsCenter following the trade and noted that Rockets GM Daryl Morey has a vision of bringing in both Chris Paul and Paul George. “When the dust all settles, will anybody be standing there to try to compete with the Warriors? The Rockets are trying to make an audacious move to do that. I’m sure at this very second they are pitching Paul George. They are pitching the Indiana Pacers. ‘Come to Houston, sign a contract extension, get the deal done. Chris Paul, James Harden and Paul George, come together and let’s try to beat the Golden State Warriors.’ That’s what’s happening right now. Whether or not they can pull it off, we’ll see. His vision is to bring Paul George and Chris Paul in. Will he be able to do it? His central piece to trade is Indianapolis native Eric Gordon. Is that gonna be enough with other pieces? I don’t know, but Daryl Morey swings for the fences.”

Hell-bent as he is on signing with the Lakers, George – according to a person with knowledge of his situation – is also the kind of prudent professional who won’t close a window of opportunity prematurely. So if the Cavs can convince Pritchard to either take on four-time All-Star forward Kevin Love or send him to a third team in exchange for more suitable assets, then George will play his heart out alongside LeBron James and remain open to the idea of re-signing next summer if James were also to return (or, perhaps, George could leave for Los Angeles with James at his side).
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