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Report: Pacers optimistic they’ll keep Paul George as veteran designated player

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The Pacers reportedly shot down any trade inquiries about Paul George.

But that was before he said Indiana isn’t treated fairly and called this one of the most frustrating seasons of his career.

Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders:

Sources close to the situation say Indians remains optimistic that the new Designated Player Exception will allow them to retain George long-term, assuming he makes one of the All-NBA teams this season.

The new veteran-designated-player rule could allow the Pacers to pay George $219,240,000 over five years ($43,848,000annually) beginning in 2018.* Another team could offer just $139,320,000 over four years ($34,830,000 annually).*

*Based on a projected 2018-19 salary cap of $108 million.

But George must make an All-NBA team this season to qualify for a designated-player extension next summer. An All-NBA selection next season would also allow him to receive the same contract terms in 2018 free agency rather than via extension.

Don’t take an All-NBA appearance for granted, though. George must compete with Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Jimmy Butler, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis, Draymond Green, DeMarcus Cousins, Gordon Hayward, Kevin Love and DeMar DeRozan at forward. Some of those players could also receive votes at guard or center, but it’s still a crowded field.

As excellent as George is, he’s nowhere near a lock. In fact, I would have a relatively easy time leaving him off an All-NBA team this season. That’d put a lot of pressure on him – and the Pacers – next season. They wouldn’t know whether they hold the designated-player advantage in his free agency until after the season – i.e., after the trade deadline.

If George makes an All-NBA team this season, the Pacers will have plenty of reason for optimism. At minimum, they’ll know where they stand if he rejects an extension.

But if George falls short this year, Indiana shouldn’t feel quite so comfortable with its position.

LeBron James: ‘I still got Pandora with commercials’

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Dwyane Wade revealed last year that LeBron James refuses to use his phone internationally unless he’s on Wi-Fi.

LeBron’s friend and new Cavaliers teammate again brought up that claim, and LeBron confirmed – then went even further about his own cheapness.

LeBron in a joint interview with Wade on ESPN:

No. I’m not doing that. I’m not turning on data roaming. I’m not buying no apps. I still got Pandora with commercials.

LeBron – he’s just like us!

As funny as that line is, keep watching to see LeBron hilariously explain how his hairline affects his interviews.

PBT Extra: LeBron as MVP and other NBA postseason award predictions

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Last year, Russell Westbrook had a historic season on his way to the MVP award, with James Harden and Kawhi Leonard right on his heels. But heading into this season, the dynamic for MVP — and many of the NBA awards — feels very different and wide open.

In this latest PBT Extra, I lay out my preseason predictions for every award — LeBron James for MVP, Ben Simmons for Rookie of the Year, and on down the list. There are a few leaps and surprises in there (predicting Most Improved or Sixth Man before the season is a crap shoot, so why not gamble).

Now the predictions season is over, let’s get on to the games.

Jazz: Dante Exum undergoing surgery after shoulder injury

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Jazz point guard Dante Exum hurt his shoulder in a preseason game – an injury that immediately looked like it could be season-ending.

Though Utah doesn’t outright say Exum is done for the year, this doesn’t engender much hope.

Jazz release:

The following is a medical update on Utah Jazz guard Danté Exum who suffered a separated left shoulder on October 6 vs. Phoenix.

After further evaluation, Exum (6-6, 190, Australia) has elected to undergo surgery to stabilize the AC joint of his left shoulder. The surgery is scheduled to take place Tuesday, October 24 in Los Angeles. Further updates will be provided when appropriate.

Exum (obviously) didn’t receive a contract extension before today’s deadline, so he’ll become a free agent next summer. After one full missed season already and two years of limited effectiveness, it’s not even clear Utah will extend Exum a qualifying offer to make him a restricted free agent. The former No. 5 pick almost certainly won’t meet the starter criteria, which means his qualifying offer would be worth $4,333,931 (down from $6,619,903 based on his draft slot).

The Jazz will start Ricky Rubio, and Raul Neto will be the primary point guard behind him. Wings Rodney Hood, Alec Burks, Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles can all share facilitating duties.

Utah will probably be just fine without Exum this season, which speaks to his marginal place long-term.

Sprained ankle has LeBron James questionable for opener vs. Celtics

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — LeBron James‘ playing status for Tuesday’s season opener against Boston remains unclear.

James has been slowed by a sprained left ankle for more than two weeks and it’s still not known whether he’ll be on the floor when the Cavaliers take on the Celtics and Kyrie Irving, who asked to be traded by Cleveland this summer.

Following Monday’s practice, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said “I really don’t know” when asked if James will play.

James took part in some post-practice shooting drills with teammates. He did not speak with the media as the Cavaliers prepared for their opener, a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference finals.

James has never missed an opener in his NBA career, and teammate J.R. Smith doesn’t expect him to miss this one.

“Oh, he’s going to go,” Smith said. “He’s going to go, trust me that. I don’t care what he’s got to do, he’s going to play.”