Storyline: Paul George Trade?

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Michael Scotto: As of right now, Oklahoma City is certainly looking to retain Paul George. The thought process when their Big Three was assembled was that it was gonna be a year-long process and you wanna hit your stride going towards the playoffs. It’s an adjustment when three ball-dominant players are coming together and trying to mesh and find their roles. You’re slowly starting to see that Carmelo and Paul George are finding their roles with Paul kinda being the No. 2 guy at this point. And Russell really going back to more of his MVP form when he was the alpha male dominant guy running the show, and really being the go-to guy. So when I look at Paul George, the way I see Oklahoma City trying to move him is if there’s a major injury. Say Melo, Russ or Steven Adams gets hurt. Then I could see it. If not, I don’t see it as of now. As long as they’re in the middle of the pack in the West, I think they give it a run. And then they try to show Paul George that ‘We can be good. We have a nucleus here. Let’s try and build around you guys and see.’

According to NBA insider Eric Pincus, the Lakers will target both DeMarcus Cousins and Paul George closer to the NBA Trade Deadline. “Plan A for the Lakers is still LeBron James. Having said that, at the deadline, the Lakers have two targets: Paul George and DeMarcus Cousins. I think George is more of a long shot since the Thunder seem to have figured things out over the last 10 games. However, the Pelicans are a different story because they’re just above .500. If they don’t climb the standings, they will be open to move Cousins,” Pincus said during the LakersNation Podcast.

So as rival teams begin wondering if George could be available at the trade deadline if the Thunder’s struggles continue, there’s something else worth wondering: If George concludes that his Oklahoma City experience will be one-and-done, will he be inclined to give the Thunder the same kind of heads up? “Well, I think this is a different scenario because it’s our only year together as far as we’re on one-year contracts,” George told Bleacher Report. “I want to put everything into this and see where that takes us. I’m not giving up; I’m not giving in. I want to give this thing everything I have and we’ll see where it goes.”

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

9 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.
9 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.”

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.

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.

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.
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April 19, 2018 | 2:58 pm EDT Update