It’s official, Paul George signs five-year max extension with Pacers

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Paul George is part of the core of the Indiana Pacers future now.

George has officially signed a new contract extension with the Pacers — believed to be a max deal at five-years worth at least $80 million (a number that could go up north of $90 million if George makes the All-NBA Team again and he qualifies for the “Rose Rule”) — and at a press conference Wednesday after the signing both team president Larry Bird and George talked about him as a cornerstone of the organization.

With that money and position comes a lot of responsibility.

“Pressure makes character and builds guys. I am open to the pressure. I want the pressure,” George said at his press conference at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, which was streamed online.

Fans of teams in small to mid-sized markets get jittery about their stars bolting for the bright lights of a big market, but throughout his press conference George referred to Indianapolis as “home” and said this was where he wanted to be (not that he was leaving after his rookie deal — nobody bolts a max extension to their rookie deal).

“My heart was really here and I couldn’t see myself anywhere else,” George said.

George is still improving at age 23 but last season he stepped up to be the focal point of the Pacers offense, averaging 17.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.8 steals per game while taking on much more of the offense in the wake of Danny Granger going down. George was the youngest player to make the All-NBA Team (he was third team) and he was rightfully the NBA’s most improved player.

Like George, the Pacers have made steady improvement the past three seasons, last season getting all the way to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Heat. This season they have a much deeper bench and they get the All-Star Granger back. The Pacers are contenders now, and that is another reason George didn’t want to leave.

“It’s all about basketball here. It was a no-brainer,” George said.

The Pacers are contenders with a young core, but some challenging decisions ahead — can they keep both Roy Hibbert and Granger, plus how do they replace the aging David West? — but with the improving George at their core this could be a very good team for a very long time.

Quinn Cook signing two-year contract with Hawks

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The Hawks began last season with just two point guards, one fewer than most teams – especially notable because neither starter Dennis Schroder nor backup Malcolm Delaney was experienced for his role.

Schroder and Delaney return, but Atlanta is adding another option – Quinn Cook.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

Cook is a borderline NBA player. He might not make the regular-season roster. He also might supplant Delaney for a rotation spot.

A 24-year-old who has spent most of the last two years in the D-League (also getting stints with the Mavericks and Pelicans), Cook is a good outside shooter. He’s also steady, if unspectacular, in his lead-guard duties.

This is a solid flier at a position the Hawks could use depth.

Knicks sign Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Jamel Artis

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The Knicks signing Nigel Hayes leaked first.

But New York didn’t stop there.

Knicks release:

The New York Knickerbockers announced today that the team has signed forwards Jamel Artis and Nigel Hayes and guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes.

Like Hayes, Artis (Pittsburgh) and Rathan-Mayes (Florida State) went undrafted this year – making them eligible to be waived and assigned to the Knicks’ minor-league affiliate. That’s likely all three’s fate.

But first, each will have an opportunity to make the regular-season roster. The Knicks have just 14 players with guaranteed salaries, leaving one roster spot for someone on a standard contract. Chasson Randle (unguaranteed) is the incumbent choice, but these three could supplant him.

O.J. Mayo says abusing prescription painkillers triggered NBA ban

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Last year, O.J. Mayo was banned from the NBA for at least two years due to a drug violation. Aside from stating a plan to come back, Mayo didn’t say much publicly.

Until now.

Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated:

He acknowledged smoking marijuana and abusing a prescription pain medication that triggered his two-year ban because it is on the NBA’s “drugs of abuse” list. (He emphatically denied testing positive for hard drugs like cocaine.)

Mayo also concluded that he had been “overwhelmed” by a string of difficult life events: his father, high school basketball star Kenny Ziegler, was sentenced to more than 10 years in prison for distributing crack cocaine, his brother was placed in juvenile lock-up, a close friend went to jail, and another was killed. “I was bred to play basketball and I thought I could balance everything,” he said. “I couldn’t.”

That’s part of an interesting feature on Mayo, who’s training for his come back. Golliver’s story makes it easy to pull for Mayo.

But the guard will be 30 when he’s eligible to apply for reinstatement, and he played lousily in his last three seasons with the Bucks.

Hopefully, Mayo has and keeps his personal life in order. But returning to the NBA will be an uphill battle.

James Harden throws alley-oop to Chris Paul, pair puts on show at Houston charity event

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What chemistry problem?

There are legitimate questions about how Chris Paul and James Harden will share the backcourt and ball with the Rockets, but none of those were on display on Sunday. That’s when CP3 joined his new teammate in Harden’s charity game (raising money for Harden’s charity, which helps children from single-family homes get a higher education), a kind of pro-am with some names thrown in to draw a crowd.

Harden and CP3 put on a show for the fans.

This is a charity event, not every team is going to defend like this or the Phoenix Suns. It’s going to be harder when the games matter.

But the Rockets are going to be entertaining to watch this season. No doubt.