The up-and-down Indiana Pacers are rumored to be considering dealing veteran All-Star forward Paul George to his hometown Los Angeles Lakers in a deal that would net the team young guns Jordan Clarkson and Brandon Ingram in return.
With the Pacers’ off to yet another uneven start, the 26-year-old George has been one of the most speculated about stars in the league. Several media outlets have reported the three-time All-Star has been linked to potential deals with the with the Bulls, Thunder, Celtics, and Bucks.
Thus far this season, George is again putting up All-Star like numbers, leading the Pacers in scoring (20.8 ppg), and ranking second and third in rebounding (6.8) and assists (3.5), respectively.
But with the Pacers off to a disappointing 9-10 start in the Eastern Conference, George hasn’t always been there when Indiana has needed him most early this season, missing seven of the team’s first 19 games with a sprained right ankle.
Another factor in the Pacers maybe now be willing to deal George is the emergence of second-year man Glenn Robinson III, who has averaged 12 points and five rebounds as the versatile vet’s primary replacement. Over his last three games, he’s raised his output to 17 points and nearly six rebounds on 66 percent shooting as one of the team’s most consistent performers.
George is due back on Sunday when the Pacers visit Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and the L.A. Clippers and there is talk coach Nate McMillan could be looking to keep Robinson in the starting lineup by moving veteran Monta Ellis to the bench.
Whatever happens, George seems to realize the time may be now or never for him and the Pacers.
“I think just sitting out and watching, I’ve, I’ve got to get back to being the guy for us,” he recently told the Indianapolis Star. “I’ve got to have the trust of the team, I’ve got to have the trust of the organization. This has been my group, this has been my team. I’ve got to get back to that. That’s what I’m looking forward to, being our leader.”
Even while still sidelined, the unquestioned team leader recently called a players-only meeting to clear the air about a host of things following the team’s overtime loss to the lowly Philadelphia 76ers.
“I’m hoping to increase more of the workload,” he added about returning to the mix sooner rather than later. “I don’t know how much or how little I’ll be in practice in the next practice we have, but that’s the plan, to be in a full-contact practice.”
Whenever he gets back, George knows he has to be himself for it to truly have any chance of making a difference for Indiana. His scoring dipped to just 17 points on 33.9 percent shooting in the three games he played in after first suffering the injury.
“That was on my mind,” he admitted. “I was good enough to play, but I wasn’t a 100 percent. Being hurt and sitting out, little stuff like that nags on you. But that’s the only thing I’m hoping, that I can play without a tweak, where I have full strength where I can cut and be aggressive off the drive. That’s the only thing I’m concerned about.”
For the star-starved Lakers, the deal makes total sense as management presses on in its dogged pursuit to add a new superstar to serve as the face of the organization with the Hall of Fame-bound Kobe Bryant now finally retired.
Even in dealing Clarkson and Ingram, the Lakers could still have such young talent as D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, and Larry Nance Jr. to surround around a superstar like George.
[Featured Image by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images]