During the All-Star weekend in New Orleans, an at times frustrated Paul George sat down with the Pacers ownership and front office and told them, in so many words, “I want to be a Pacer for life, but only if we can build a team that can contend for a title.”
Fans from Los Angeles to Boston only seemed to hear the second part of that, then when the trade rumors started to fly people were convinced he was on the move.
The Pacers focused on the first part of that sentence. Which is why he’s still a Pacer tonight.
Indiana went out and kicked the tires on deals, talking to a lot of teams. We know Boston came hard because this was the first time they have put one of their prized Brooklyn picks the next two seasons on the table.
The Hawks were trying.
Denver wants to make a run at the big time — remember they came hard at Dwyane Wade last summer — and they made a run at George.
Although, this would have gotten Denver to back off.
Those teams were not alone, but in the end, the Pacers passed on all of it.
Why? Because they heard the first part of that sentence above — they love Paul George and want him to be their cornerstone. They listened to offers, not nothing rose to the Godfather offer level it was going to have to for the Pacers to deal away their star and start a massive rebuilding project around Myles Turner.
That said, this conversation is not over.
Only two things will keep Paul George in Indiana past his free agency of 2018 (and if he leaves then his hometown Lakers are seen as a clear, runaway favorite). First, Larry Bird is able to build a contender around George in the next year. Not impossible, but highly unlikely.
The other is that George makes an All-NBA team this season. If that happens, the Pacers can offer him the “designated player” larger contract, around $210 million over five years (and $30 million more than he could make anywhere else). George may have frustrations and issues in Indiana, but he’s not leaving that cash on the table. That said, the sense talking to media members who vote on this is that George is likely just going to miss out this year (there are just six forward spots and wealth of talent at the position).
If George is not an All-NBA player this year and if Bird cannot quickly construct a contender, then the Pacers have to revisit these trades and try to get something back for their star. Likely they will over the summer.
They just weren’t ready to go there on Thursday.