Among the many and sometimes (often?) delusional dreams that Lakers fans have about the free agency rebuild the team will attempt in the summer of 2014 is this one:
Bringing Paul George back to his Los Angeles roots.
If the Pacers and George do not come to terms on a contract extension before Oct. 30 then he will be a restricted free agent next summer (meaning the Pacers could match any offer). There are Lakers fans suggesting the Lakers throw the max at the All-Star forward. Fans and front office types from a few other teams are thinking along those lines, too.
There are a couple problems with that, as Marc Stein of ESPN pointed out after talking to George (who is at the Team USA mini-camp in Las Vegas this week).
No. 1: George confirmed Monday after Team USA’s first practice of the summer on the campus of UNLV that his representatives and the Pacers have already opened discussions on a contract extension that could well prevent Indiana’s All-Star swingman from ever reaching free agency … even the restricted variety.
No. 2: George might have grown up worshiping Kobe Bryant, but he sounds like he’s working for the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce when someone brings up his future with the Pacers.
Asked Monday if he’s been following all the lobbying in Lakerland, George told ESPN.com: “I’m happy, man. I’m happy in Indiana. It’s overwhelming (to hear) that they would want a player like me to come play for their team. But right now I’m focused on Indiana. I’m happy to be in Indiana. Our future is bright in Indiana. I wouldn’t want to leave something great.”
Top players almost never leave after their rookie deal, they stay with the team that drafted them through a second contract to get some max money after that rookie contract ends. See LeBron James in Cleveland for an example.
So George wants to stay in Indy and get paid — and if he does that he’s on a contending team. One that pushed the Heat to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals and then got better in the off-season.
Max money, contending team — George isn’t bolting that.
I’d be surprised if a contract extension is not worked out this summer or by early fall. He’s not going to be a restricted free agent.