Danny Granger is back. Roy Hibbert is a force in the paint. David West is a rock solid voice in the locker room.
But the Pacers are becoming Paul George’s team.
And the All-Star entering his fourth season told the Indianapolis Star he is ready to take on that top role.
“This whole summer, I really trained being the go-to guy and the lead guy for our team. Last year, we still had Danny and did not know the results (of Granger’s injury) coming into the year. I had a role that I had kind of prepared for and trained for. This year, it was more about training to be the No. 1 guy and lead this team.”
George spent part of his summer at the Team USA mini-camp where Mike Krzyzewski and the USA Basketball staff got a good look at the young talent in the league. He left that camp with people saying he’s pretty much a lock to be on Team USA in Spain for the World Championships next summer.
George is the leader now and the Pacers did a very good job this summer upgrading the team’s bench with Luis Scola, C.J. Watson and Chris Copeland. The Pacers are contenders.
There are just two key questions and they both revolve around George.
First, can George and Danny Granger mesh fully? Second, if they can, how far can George’s versatile game take them? Because right now Pacers fans are thinking title run, and the Pacers should be in that mix.
John Wall said he wanted the Wizards to acquire Paul George, explaining:
“Look at our team. We are one piece away,” Wall said. “We have the point guard, we have the shooting guard, we have the center, we have the power forward. Our 3-man, [Porter], did great for us. You can’t take nothing away from what he did. But, [George] is a guy that can guard LeBron and go back at LeBron. It’s a piece that you’re going to need to win. If you don’t have a guy who can do that, you don’t have a chance. …
You got to add another star. You got to add another piece. You got to have three guys. And that’s what it’s looking like.”
That’s kind of a slight to Otto Porter, no?
Wall said his words created no problems, but that’s not really for him to say. How did Porter feel about it?
Porter, via Chase Hughes of CSN Mid-Atlantic:
“We’re talking about Paul George here. If we could get him on our squad? We could definitely contend for a championship,” Porter said after the press conference to announce his new four-year contract worth $106.5 million on Wednesday.
“It’s just motivation. I will continue to get back into the gym. I didn’t take anything personal. I’m just going to continue to go out there and work and play my game,” Porter said.
George is better than Porter. That’s just a fact. So, I have no problem with anyone saying so or proceeding based on that truth.
But I’m also not Porter.
I would completely understand Porter chafing at Wall recruiting George to replace Porter. I’d definitely understand Porter chafing at Wall talking publicly about recruiting George to replace Porter.
Porter so easily moving past this just speaks to his way of quietly contributing. It also doesn’t hurt that the Wizards will pay him about $107 million over the next four years. That buys some willingness to fall in line.
According to one report, LeBron James wants to fight Kyrie Irving. According to another, LeBron is eager for the Cavaliers to trade Irving.
According to LeBron…
So, maybe there’s a chance LeBron and Irving can reconcile. It’s not too late until a deal is completed.
But it seems Cleveland is moving toward trading Irving, so the clock is ticking.
LeBron might not be inclined to persuade Irving to drop his trade request, anyway. It really seems LeBron wants to stay out of this – or at least give the impression he’s staying out of this. LeBron denying bitterness toward Irving is one thing. LeBron connecting with a teammate who has cited problems with him as a reason for leaving is another.
The Cavaliers think they were close to trading for Paul George, a text message away from completing a three-team trade with the Pacers and Nuggets that would have sent Kevin Love to Denver.
But Cleveland could’ve ensured itself George, whom Indiana ultimately dealt to the Thunder. All the Cavs had to do was send Kyrie Irving to the Pacers.
Brian Windhorst and Zach Lowe of ESPN on The Lowe Post podcast:
- Windhorst: “I know that around the draft and in the Paul George talks, the Cavs were not willing to make Kyrie Irving available for Paul George.”
- Lowe: “We can say on this podcast: The Pacers offered Paul George for Kyrie Irving. That’s a thing that happened, according to people that we’ve talked to.”
- Windhorst: “Multiple times.”
Even if the Cavaliers knew of Irving’s unhappiness – maybe they did, or at least should have – while George was still in Indiana, this would have been a bad trade for them.
Irving is locked up for two more years, and George is on an expiring contract. That simply makes Irving more valuable than George, who – like LeBron James – could have walked in a year. George is ineligible for a reasonable contract extension, and there’s so much buzz about him joining the Lakers.
Now, if the Cavs were more on top of Irving’s trade request when George were still available, maybe they would have more aggressively tried to bridge the gap. Perhaps, Indiana could have sent another player or draft pick.
But Cleveland shouldn’t be kicking itself over not dealing Irving for George straight up.
LeBron James reportedly wants to fight Kyrie Irving over the guard’s trade request.
But sometimes, people continue to work with those whom they dislike. LeBron partnered with Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert again and again, after all.
Might LeBron realize keeping Irving is Cleveland’s best chance to win another title? Could LeBron put personal feelings aside in that pursuit?
Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:
Irving has asked for a trade and James is eager to see him off.
This might explain why the Cavs appear so gung-ho about moving Irving. LeBron usually gets what he wants in Cleveland, especially in a contract year.
It’s not too late for LeBron and Irving to reconcile until a trade is completed, but with LeBron welcoming Derrick Rose, they just move further from that possibility.