Well, this is getting fun, isn’t it? Nerve-racking may be a better adjective for Indiana Pacers fans as their star player’s future hangs in the balance. Paul George’s situation is something rarely seen, as moving pieces seem to be multiplying and plots thickening by the day. Where do all these parts fit though? Let’s take a look and try to make some sense of the madness.
Cavaliers Team Up
Spiderman and Green Goblin, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, Paul George and LeBron James, what do these pairs have in common? They’re all rivals who make each other better. However, could James and George do the unthinkable and team up?
While the Cleveland Cavilers have been to three straight NBA Finals, the looming threat of the Warriors may force Cleveland to change course. To this point, the Finals have been uninteresting and flat, as the Warriors have controlled a majority of the minutes played.
When asked what the Cavs could do to combat Golden State by Bleacher Report, one 10-year NBA vet had this to say, “I’d be targeting Paul George. I don’t know the match, but I’d give up anything but LBJ and Kyrie to get him. Melo [Carmelo Anthony] and D-Wade [Dwyane Wade] do not solve the problems that they have with [Golden State].”
While Cleveland currently has Kevin Love, his style of play does not match well against the Warriors. George would be an immediate boost to the team and may help them surpass the Warriors. While Cleveland would love this scenario, don’t count on George being a Cavalier anytime soon.
Homecoming In Los Angeles
This is a rumor that very well may never die. While everyone would love to play for their hometown team, George has stated his desire to win. Unfortunately for the Lakers, they don’t provide a legitimate title contender for George… yet. While a trade would benefit the Pacers more than George walking for nothing, George can afford to be patient. He’s better off joining a team that doesn’t have to dismantle its roster to make room in his eyes.
Here’s where things get interesting. The Lakers have a solid, young core full of potential and the number two overall pick in the draft this offseason. Then the rumors of LeBron’s arrival began earlier this week when reports surfaced that there was at least a small possibility James was eyeing the City of Angels in 2018.
Remember that George and James team up we discussed before? What if in 2018 it happened, but in LA? Teaming up with James and the young core could very well provide the winning ways George has been stated to want.
While a lot of different pieces have to fall into places for this to happen, the possibility will and should at least concern Pacers fans a little. This appears to be the most likely option should George leave the circle city.
Rumors of a Paul George to Boston trade were the talk of the sports world before the trade deadline this year. Unless something unforeseen happens, this is short and sweet. Paul George to the Celtics won’t happen.
When asked about trading the first pick in this year’s draft Celtic owner Wyc Grousbeck was quoted as saying, “You’ve got to send more guys along. So, this guy coming back better be the second coming. What’s more, he’s going to be halfway through his career, whoever he is. And he’s going to be paid right now a ton of money, which restricts you in other ways…And so our intention would be to make the pick unless someone blows us away with an offer.”
While George is an extremely talented player, he just isn’t the “second coming” that Grousbeck is referring to. Again, George to the Celtics seems to have wilted and died at the trade deadline earlier this year.
Paul George Stays In Indiana
Finally, a scenario that Pacers fans won’t cringe reading. While sports pundits almost always talk about George’s future locations, there is one option they seem to forget. George could decide to stay in Indianapolis long term. The team’s new president, Kevin Pritchard, seems to be prioritizing George and the team’s future.
Shortly after taking over the new role as president, Pritchard discussed a sit down with George saying, “We talked about a lot of different things. In every scenario, he talked about being here. That’s important. He wants to win. Picking up Lance late in the year made us a better team and got us into the playoffs. We want to win. We want successful teams year in and year out, and that has to do with Paul. He wants to win, the Pacers want to win, we’re on the same page.”
Pritchard hit the nail on the head when he mentioned Lance Stephenson. While Stephenson may have a negative image among some fans throughout the league, he and George are very close. The signing of Stephenson undoubtedly increases the Pacers chance of keeping George, and Stephenson even publicly discussed the matter.
“I think he’s staying. I don’t think he has any doubts about coming back. So I’m not worried about that,” Stephenson said. “I got to start working [on keeping him]. I got to get all my guys and tie him up in a chair and be like ‘you can’t leave!’ You ain’t going nowhere, Paul George.”
A genuine love for Indianapolis could also play a role. George has a unique and intimate relationship with Indianapolis. In 2014 he suffered what could have been a career-ending injury during a Team USA exhibition game. George missed nearly the entire season that year, only appearing in six games. What many don’t know is that the Pacers paid his entire salary that season, nearly $17 million. The fans love him and he knows it. Earlier this year, rumors circulated that the team may trade George and rebuild. When the deadline passed and George was still a Pacer, fans let him know their thoughts. Coming out to a standing ovation in the next game he had this to say, “It was an emotional moment to be honest. Even running out of the tunnel, I couldn’t help but have a little smirk from them just being happy and cheering, them being really happy for me continuing my career here. I felt that. I felt a little queasy going out, but that’s the reason why I love being here. That’s love that I love here.”
Another big factor in getting the help George desires could lay in Utah. Former Butler Bulldog Gordon Hayward is set to be a free agent this summer if he declines his player option. Imagine a starting lineup featuring George, Hayward, and Stephenson. If the team drafts well and adds quality role players, the Pacers could become a title contender sooner rather than later, persuading George to remain in Indianapolis for the long haul.