Eastern Conference forward Paul George of the Indiana Pacers (13) reacts during the second half of the NBA All-Star basketball game in New Orleans, Sunday, Feb. 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Max Becherer)
AP Photo/Max Becherer

Paul George says he’s not motivated by opportunity to earn higher max

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NEW ORLEANS — The Pacers have already granted a standing max offer to Paul George.

So, if he wants to stay in Indiana, his potential paths look relatively straightforward:

If he makes an All-NBA team this season, he can sign a designated-veteran-player extension that would kick in in 2018-19 and projects be worth about $209 million over five years (about $42 million annually).

If he doesn’t make an All-NBA team this season, he can wait to sign and try again to make one next season. If he does, he can sign a new contract in 2018 that would be worth the same $209 million or so over the same five-year period.

I think it’s this simple: If he becomes eligible to become a designated veteran player, he’ll sign then. If not, 2018 free agency projects to offer a choice of about $179 million over five years (about $36 million annually) to re-sign or about $133 million over four years (about $33 million annually) to sign elsewhere — a more difficult decision.

George says he’s not thinking about earning the higher max.

“You want to be one of the best,” George said. “And that’s the only motivation. You want to be All-NBA. That’s what you strive for. That’s what you want to play for, to be recognized as one of the league’s best players.”

That’s no small challenge for George, who was one of 12 All-Star forwards this year, joining:

With only six All-NBA forward spots, George faces long odds this season — and no easy path next season.

But at least eligibility for the higher max coincides with one of his goals.

“It’s nice. It’s nice,” George said. “But that’s not the motivation you want to play for”

Locker room drama? Player recruitment? Paul Millsap, does that go on All-Star weekend? “Rarely ever”

NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 17:  Paul Millsap #4 of the Atlanta Hawks speaks with the media during media availability for the 2017 NBA All-Star Game at The Ritz-Carlton New Orleans on February 17, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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NEW ORLEANS — Russell Westbrook vs. Kevin Durant spreading tension throughout the locker room. Players trying to convince Carmelo Anthony he should agree to a trade to their city. Players coming up and trying to recruit free agents to be this summer like the Hawks’ Paul Millsap.

It’s how some fans picture it is inside All-Star weekend locker rooms, all sorts of palace intrigue playing out like a soap opera.

“Rarely ever,” Millsap said of these kinds of things coming up. “For us, we get away from regular season basketball. It’s not about our respective teams, it’s about what’s going on now. You may share some stories, but we’re not talking about (regular season drama).”

Fans can be deeply invested in what happens during the regular season — heck, Eric Gordon heard boos from frustrated Pelicans fans before he won the Three-Point Contest Saturday.

But for the players, it’s a vacation. A chance to get away from all that drama.

“No, it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter at all,” Millsap said of the regular season minutia that can dominate the league. “Once you get down here we’re all teammates. That’s how guys treat it. To get here, we’re enemies, but while we’re here everybody’s teammates and are fun to have in the locker room. It’s just a good time.”

They’re more likely to talk about the parties around town.

“Some,” Millsap said with a laugh. “But it’s just more general conversation, almost nothing about the season.”

Most of the recruitment comes in the summer, and most via text. Some players don’t like each other, just like nearly everyone reading this has someone at their office/job they don’t like working with (except me, all my bosses should be canonized they are such good people). Come the office Christmas Party, people put that aside and just get along. Same thing All-Star weekend for the players. Everyone just gets along and tries to enjoy the experience.

When play starts up again next week, the drama can return.

NBA: Hawks forced crucial turnover in win over Trail Blazers by getting away with foul

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Paul Millsap got the Hawks into overtime with a buzzer-beating basket.

Trying to produce his own heroics with the Trail Blazers down one in the final seconds of the extra period, Damian Lillard coughed up the ball.

But an incorrectly uncalled foul immediately preceded that huge turnover, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report.

Dennis Schroder should’ve been whistled for disrupting Lillard’s speed/quickness/balance/rhythm with 9.6 seconds left, per the league:

Schroder (ATL) makes leg to leg contact with Lillard (POR) that affects his SQBR.

A correct call would’ve put Atlanta in the penalty and given Lillard — who’s making 90% of his free throws this season and 88% for his career — two attempts from the line.

Instead, Portland had to begin intentionally fouling, and the Hawks pulled away for a 109-104 win.

Paul Millsap hits floater to force overtime, where Hawks beat Blazers 109-104 (VIDEO)

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That’s the kind of a play your All-Star needs to make.

Deuces were wild as the Hawks were down 2 with 2.2 seconds left in the game when the ball was inbounded to Millsap out at the arc, single covered by Al-Farouq Aminu (probably the Blazers best perimeter defender). Millsap created space and drove across the lane with his left hand, just getting the shot off on time and it fell. Tie ballgame.

Millsap led the Hawks with four points in overtime as Atlanta got the win.

Spurs top Pacers for NBA-record 20th straight winning season

San Antonio Spurs' Kawhi Leonard is chased by Indiana Pacers' Paul George during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Feb. 13, 2017, in Indianapolis. San Antonio defeated Indiana 110-106. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Kawhi Leonard scored 32 points and the San Antonio Spurs clinched their NBA-record 20th consecutive winning season with a 110-106 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Monday night.

LaMarcus Aldridge scored 10 of his 19 points during the final 6 1/2 minutes as the Spurs improved to 42-13 in the season following Tim Duncan’s retirement. They have had a winning record every season since 1997-98, when Duncan was a rookie, and broke a tie with the Utah Jazz, who had 19 straight winning seasons from 1985-2004.

Paul George scored 27 points and Myles Turner had 22 for the Pacers, who have lost four straight – three on their home court.

George’s 3-pointer with 21 seconds left cut it to 107-104, but the Spurs closed it out at the free-throw line to bounce back from their loss in New York on Sunday.

Indiana took a 95-91 lead with 5:17 left. But the Pacers missed five free throws after that and turned the ball over with 29 seconds left in a four-point game.

San Antonio looked ready to pull away when it used an 11-0 run in the third-quarter to make it 81-72.

But the Pacers closed the quarter on a 7-2 flurry to get within 83-79 and opened the fourth on an 8-1 spurt to retake an 87-84 lead on back-to-back breakaway dunks from Monta Ellis. They just couldn’t hold it against the team with the NBA’s second-best record.

Leonard has scored 30 or more points in five straight games.

TIP-INS

Spurs: Leonard also extended his streak of double-digit scoring games to 84, the longest streak by a San Antonio player since Duncan’s 91-game streak ended in 2003. … Danny Green, Tony Parker and David Lee each scored 12 points and Dwayne Dedmon had six points and 12 rebounds. … San Antonio was 23 of 27 from the free-throw line. … Coach Gregg Popovich earned win No. 1,031, moving within 24 of Phil Jackson for sixth in league history.

Pacers: Jeff Teague had 15 points, Rodney Stuckey finished with 13 and Kevin Seraphin had 12 in his first start of the season. … Indiana has lost eight of its last nine home games against San Antonio. … Indiana was outscored 15-4 on second-chance points and 44-36 on points in the paint. … The Pacers were 21 of 30 on free throws. … Starting forward Thaddeus Young sat out again with a sprained left wrist. … C.J. Miles made one 3 to move within two of Mike Dunleavy (408) for No. 7 in the franchise’s NBA history.