Paul George, Kobe Bryant

Paul George says ‘it would be tough to say no’ to Kobe, but he’s happy with the Pacers

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Paul George had a breakout season for the Indiana Pacers, earning his first trip to the All-Star game and going toe-to-toe at with LeBron James at times during a compelling Eastern Conference Finals series that went all seven games.

His rookie contract will be up after next season, at which time George will technically hit the free agent market — although his status will be restricted, with the Pacers having the opportunity to match any offer he may receive to play somewhere else.

If George continues on his current trajectory, the decision will be a no-brainer for Indiana to offer him a max contract to keep him in town for the next four or five seasons. As of right now, that plan sounds just fine to George, who is happy in Indiana, despite his ties to Los Angeles.

From Scott Agness of Pacers.com:

“My heart is still in Indiana,” the 23-year-old said [in an interview with Colin Cowherd on ESPN Radio on Tuesday.] “… I’m still a Pacer, and hopefully I remain a Pacer. I’m happy where I’m at.”

George said that him hypothetically joining the Lakers would certainly be a “family-favorite team.”

“Of course it would be tough (to say no to Kobe). You’re talking about playing [at] home.”

The Lakers came up not only because they always do, but because George grew up in Los Angeles, and the Lakers will be looking to sign some big-name free agents next summer when they’ll have almost an entire roster full of salary cap space to pursue anyone that they choose.

But again, George is a restricted free agent, and will likely be deserving of a max contract that the team should have no trouble offering in order to keep him in Indiana for the next several years.

There’s no reason he wouldn’t want to be there right now considering the success the team has seen in his three seasons there, but it’s still good news for the franchise that George isn’t looking to leave anytime soon.

Dwight Howard commits ridiculously sloppy inbound violation (video)

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An embarrassing lack of focus by the Rockets? I can hardly believe it.

Late in a game against a team Houston is battling for playoff position, Dwight Howard was just careless, stepping on the baseline as he inbounded the ball. It’s a needless goof, and he’ll get plenty of deserved criticism for it.

But don’t overlook Patrick Beverley‘s frustration foul on Damian Lillard before the ensuing inbound. That was nearly as foolish and even more costly.

The sequence sparked a 7-0 run for the Trail Blazers, who seized control of the game en route to a 116-103 win.

DeAndre Jordan dunks on Marcus Smart before Smart knows what’s happening (video)

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Marcus Smart went to tag DeAndre Jordan on the pick-and-roll, and Jordan took off from so far from the basket, he was dunking on Smart before the Celtics guard could do a thing.

Chris Paul finds brilliant counter to hack-a-DeAndre Jordan (video)

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I originally favored allowing Hack-a-Shaq as the NBA currently does. I found the strategy fascinated – why and when teams would use it and how their opponents would counter.

But it just became too common. Far too many games featured a parade of trips to the line, a boring stretch that made games too long. I thought the intrigue had run its course.

Then, Chris Paul pulled this move last night.

The Clippers guard saw Jonas Jerebko charging toward DeAndre Jordan to commit an intentional foul, so Paul stepped in front of an unsuspecting Jerebko and took the foul himself. That’s sent a good free-throw shooter to the line instead of the dismal Jordan.

Just an awesome heady play by Paul.