Paul George has been a hot topic for discussion as a potential star on the move especially after not making an All-NBA team last season, and tonight the Indianapolis media got a rare off-season chance to ask him questions about his future at the 9th Annual Caroline Symmes Celebrity Softball Challenge that has numerous current and former players for both the Colts and Pacers compete every year.
Everything that George said tonight is consistent with every other time he’s spoken to the media about his future in the last year or so. George said expects to be an Indiana Pacers player through next season and play out the rest of his contract. He still wants to win in Indiana and still wants some help to do so.
“I’m a Pacer,” said George according to Nate Taylor of the Indy Star. “There’s no way around that. This is my team, my group, and this is where I’m at.”
While the text here doesn’t make George sound enthusiastic about being a Pacer currently in these quotes, it’s likely that he’s sick of all the speculation and rumors about where he’s going when he still has a full year before he’ll be making that decision of whether to stay or whether to leave.
George is still talking about wanting to bring a championship to Indiana and win for the team that drafted him.
“I am all about trying to make this team better,” said George according to Tricia Whitaker of CBS4 Indy. “For Indiana, I want that ring. I need some help to get that accomplished.”
“It’s all about bringing a championship to Indiana,” said George.
The burden to get that help for George is on recently promoted President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard. George said he and Pritchard are on the same page after meeting with him the day after his promotion and that he’s pleased with the hire.
“His mind is in the right place in terms of players I want to play with and be around,” said George of Pritchard. “It’s going to be tough, as it would be anywhere to attract players so we’ll see how we shape this team up.”
Pritchard’s approach seems very different than Larry Bird’s infamous “He don’t make decisions around here” stance when the Pacers wanted George to play power forward, and George already seems to appreciate feeling like he’s a part of what Pritchard is trying to do and being kept in the loop. George wasn’t happy about not knowing anything about the trade rumors at the deadline, and Pritchard has made an immediate effort to repair George’s trust with the front office.
Pritchard will be looking to figure out a way to make a splash in free agency or via trade that will get the Pacers back to competing in Eastern Conference Finals. Don’t be surprised to hear if the Pacers are at least looking for a meeting with a free agent like former Butler star Gordon Hayward, especially when George has praised his game in the past.
“I love being a part of what he’s trying to do from day one,” said George. “We established a great relationship.”
Actually pulling in a player like Hayward or someone of similar caliber will be easier said than done for Pritchard as the Pacers will have limited resources available if they intend to re-sign Jeff Teague and CJ Miles. Finding takers on the contracts of both Monta Ellis and Al Jefferson is one of few potential options of freeing up cap space, but the Pacers are unlikely to find any suitors on the old veterans without a draft pick attached to the deal as well.
If George makes an All-NBA team this season, he’ll still qualify for that enormous extension that only the Pacers can offer him, so George has an extra motivation to not be traded this season.
George, who had previously stated that he felt like he played well enough to make one of the All-NBA teams this season, said that he won’t play the “political game” when it comes to the All-NBA teams and that he knows he needs to be better next season to make one of those teams.
The constant trade rumors and speculation about George’s future will remain a constant until next off-season when George opts out of his current contract and becomes a free agent.
“They’re all crazy,” said George about trade rumors, “but they’re all expected.”
After the finals, the television talking heads and some journalists have talked or written about the idea of George being traded to the Cavaliers as a kind of counter to the Warriors acquiring Kevin Durant last off-season. None of them seem to consider the Pacers will make a decision based on their own interests and likely won’t even consider dealing George to their division rival that already is the best team in the Eastern Conference.
And George says he doesn’t have any plans on speaking with James about his future.
“He’s been a huge influencer for me outside of the game,” said George, “but we don’t communicate and figure out where one another’s going.”
At this point, it seems highly unlikely that the Pacers will be trading George during the off-season. Zach Lowe, Brian Windhorst, and Ramona Shelburne each recently said on Lowe’s podcast that they had heard the Pacers weren’t looking to trade George currently from their own sources, and George isn’t currently demanding one either. As George said, they’re on the “same page.”
If the Pacers do start looking to trade George, it will likely be because they failed to add any new pieces and George then requests a trade, or the season isn’t going as planned at the deadline next year and the Pacers decide he’s likely to leave and to get whatever they can before losing him for nothing.
For the fans in Indiana, it’s still a game of wait and see. There will just be a lot of rumors and speculation about George’s future until the day comes.
In the meantime, let’s try to just enjoy Paul George.