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.