There were quite a few deals made just prior to the NBA trade deadline that passed earlier today, but despite being active in trade discussions, the Indiana Pacers did not make any moves. The Pacers were involved in a number of potential deals, as reported by SB Nation. Much of the buzz centered around All-Star small forward Paul George, as news broke right before the deadline that Indiana’s president of basketball operations Larry Bird was considering offers for George.
The Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, and Denver Nuggets were all rumored to have made serious offers for Paul George, but Bird chose to pass on all of those proposals. Indiana was also allegedly targeting several players in an attempt to bolster the team around George, including centers Brook Lopez and Jahlil Okafor, as well as swingman Arron Afflalo. However, all of the talk resulted in no movement for Indiana, so the team will go into the final 25 games of the regular season with the same group they began the year with.
The Indianapolis Star also discusses the NBA trade deadline and Paul George’s status. Larry Bird was attempting to use the Pacers’ first-round pick in the 2017 NBA Draft as a trade chip to acquire additional help for Paul George and his teammates, but ultimately, Bird was unable to secure a beneficial deal.
Now, the talk will shift to the remainder of the regular season and George’s level of commitment to the Pacers franchise going forward. If George is named to one of the three All-NBA teams after the season, he will be eligible for a max contract with Indiana that can run for six years and could be worth as much as $212 million. That is a great deal more money than other teams would be allowed to offer him, but that probably won’t be the deciding factor for George.
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Vigilant Sports shares that Paul George has told Larry Bird and team owner Herb Simon that he wants to remain in Indiana when his current contract is up, but under one condition: if the team is a contender by that time. If Paul George decides that the Pacers are not on the path to a possible championship within the next year, there is a clear favorite as to which team he may prefer to play for. Sam Amick of USA Today revealed via Twitter that George is “hell-bent” on joining the Los Angeles Lakers if he is not satisfied with the direction Indiana takes over the next year.
The subplot of new Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson going head-to-head for Paul George’s services with his old basketball nemesis, Larry Bird, is a juicy storyline that could play out as we get closer to the summer of 2018 (when George can opt out of his contract in Indiana). Rumor has it that Johnson called Bird this week to discuss a possible deal for Paul George, but Bird rebuffed those advances. Round One of this new millennium Magic versus Bird battle is over, but there will be subsequent rounds as we get to the summer of 2017, and then, the 2018 NBA trade deadline.
The Paul George Saga will continue for at least the next few months, but the order of business now is to see if the Pacers can start winning again and move up in the Eastern Conference standings. Let’s not forget that before power forward Thaddeus Young injured his wrist, Indiana had won seven straight games. Without Young and facing a more difficult schedule, the Pacers lost their last six games before the NBA All-Star break. The potential is there, but this team has to find their rhythm again and learn how to sustain it. Can they re-establish themselves? Indiana has two months and 25 games left to prove they belong.
[Featured Image by Michael Conroy/AP Images]