If you follow the NBA, then you will have most likely heard the many rumors about Paul George being traded from the Pacers before the trade deadline. Of course, that didn’t happen, but there are many questions surrounding the All-NBA forward’s future in Indiana. Some believe he wants to go back to California, where he grew up, and play for his favorite childhood team, the Los Angeles Lakers. Others feel those claims are fabricated to create interest between George and the Lakers. The one thing we do know for sure is, Paul George wants to play for a contender. He told ESPN Radio this in February:
“As I told Larry, I always want to play on a winning team, I always want to be part of a team that has a chance to win it (all). That’s important. Say what you want; I want to compete for something. It’s frustrating just playing the game for stats or for numbers or to showcase yourself. Man, I want a chance to play for a chance to win a championship. I want to be the first to bring a championship to Indiana. So that’s still on my mind … and something I definitely want to achieve in Indiana.”
This didn’t quell the rumors that George wants to be a Laker, though. Sam Amick posted on Twitter that George is “hell-bent” on joining the Lakers:
I repeat: Paul George – barring a title chance in Indy – is hell-bent on heading for Laker Land. This message has been sent throughout NBA.
— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) February 23, 2017
It’s clear that contending is on George’s mind, but to what extent is he willing to take that? Would he be willing to leave the organization that drafted and developed him in hopes of pursuing a championship? Is he so angry with Indiana’s complacency that he is willing to join a budding Lakers squad for a change of scenery?
George came out of All-Star weekend and averaged 11.3 PPG on 30% shooting from the floor through three games. Then, it appeared that the rumors had some validity behind them, and George was in fact upset with his role on the Pacers. Even though the Pacers went 2-1 in this stretch, it felt like George’s days were numbered in Indy, and the writing was on the wall. However, im the next five games, he bounced back and averaged 26.2 PPG, 8 RPG, and almost 4 APG while shooting 50% from the field. He once again looked like the locked in superstar that Indiana had grown to know and love. This doesn’t really mean he likes to play in Indiana. Above all else, Paul George is a competitor. Playing basketball is what he likes to do. Even if he was upset with his current team, it’s hard to see imagine him averaging near 11 points per game for any extended stretch.
With peers like Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, LeBron James, and Kevin Durant leaving the teams that drafted them for greener pastures, and varying success, George is facing a difficult decision. In some cases, like LeBron, the strategy has been incredible for his legacy. In others, like Carmelo, it has led to many mediocre seasons and fueled Anthony’s detractors even more. Just imagine the kind of criticism Kevin Durant will face if he fails to win a championship with the Warriors. The Pacers could jump ahead of the situation and trade George before he makes the decision, but I get the feeling that in the end, the decision will be George’s. Either way, whatever George ultimately decides will vastly change the outlook of his legacy, for better or worse.
What is known regarding the future is that Paul George will be a Pacer for the rest of the season. According to Jeff Teague, the team is still sticking together through it all:
Jeff Teague: “This is the first game I felt like we really just stuck together. Nobody really got down.”
— Nate Taylor (@ByNateTaylor) February 28, 2017
The Pacers are currently sitting at 6th place in the Eastern Conference standings, but the race is tight from spots 5-9. The Pacers are by no means a contender, but they appear to be comfortably in the playoff race at this point in the season. Is that enough for Paul George though? He wants to contend, but the current team hasn’t even come close to scratching that level. Jeff Teague is a nice running mate, and Myles Turner may be a star in the making, but at least for the next season or two, this team doesn’t appear to have the makings of a championship run.
The question is, will the Pacers be able to draft another star, or be able to make the necessary moves in free agency to keep George around? They don’t seem to be in position to take the draft route since the Pacers will most likely be picking in the mid to late first round. Free agency is a possibility, but when was the last time the Pacers brought in a big time free agent? Many believe the Pacers should just cut the cord now, gather some assets, and start building the roster around Myles Turner. The confidence in Indiana for George staying is shaky at best. Being in a small market makes the quick rebuild a difficult option, but the Pacers have their hands tied in attempting to entice George into staying at the crossroads.
No matter what happens, this will be a hot topic as the NBA offseason draws near.
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