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.
“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.