Throughout much of the last few months, there has been the constant chatter about Indiana Pacers’ star forward Paul George possessing some strong interest in joining the Los Angeles Lakers.
According to Sporting News’ Mitch Lawrence, George has apparently made it no secret to the Pacers what his long-term plans are.
“A SoCal native, he’s been talking about playing for his hometown team, the Lakers, for a long time. He’s never made his long-term intentions a secret within the Pacers’ locker room, according to former teammates. He wants to wear the purple and gold.”
There have been various reports over the last several weeks stating that the 26-year-old behind the scenes has expressed his interest in playing for his hometown team. The talk around George’s future has only ramped up with the Pacers getting swept in four games over the weekend in their first-round playoff matchup against the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
Despite coming up short in Game 4 shooting just 5-of-21 from the field for 15 points, George had strung together three strong performances scoring a combined 97 points, which were the highest total by a Pacer in franchise history through the first three contests of a playoff series.
George has two years remaining on his five-year, $91.5 million deal with a player option for the final year worth $20.7 million. An interesting factor that could have some impact on his future in Indiana is the new “designated player” rule, which allows for veteran players that meet certain criteria to earn more money when inking a new contract with their current teams. These accolades consist of NBA MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, All-NBA First Team, All-NBA Second Team, All-NBA Third Team.
In George’s case, if he earns any of the All-NBA team honors, the Pacers would be able to offer him about $70 million than any other team in free agency. However, his burning desire to play in Los Angeles could overrule staying in Indiana despite the significant pay increase.
What makes matters more interesting is that Magic Johnson, who is now the Lakers’ president of basketball operations, made it quite clear in a recent appearance on the Jimmy Kimmel Show that he wants to acquire George.
We’re going to say hi, because we know each other. You just can’t say, “Hey, I want you to come to the Lakers,” even though I’m going to be wink-winking like [blinks repeatedly]. You know what that means, right?
There is certainly a lot of intriguing layers to this situation, but more clarity should come over the offseason.