How close were the Indiana Pacers to moving Paul George at February’s trade deadline?
At least not to the Los Angeles Lakers.
From the Los Angeles Times‘ Tania Ganguli:
Bird planned to call Johnson after the NBA trade deadline, just to congratulate his old friend on becoming the Lakers’ president of basketball operations. It’s the same title Bird has held for most of 14 years with the Indiana Pacers.
Johnson beat Bird to it. The phone call lasted less than five minutes, consisted mostly of small talk and might have touched only briefly on the fate of Indiana star Paul George.
“I wasn’t motivated to move Paul George at the deadline,” Bird said. “I can’t remember if it was even brought up or not. I don’t think it was. It’s all fake news anyway. You know that. Somebody’s gonna start it and [it] just was a snowball effect. [The phone call] was not about Paul George.”
Shoutout to Magic Johnson for trying. Boston Celtics team president Danny Ainge, too. (Probably.)
Bird didn’t need to reckon with George’s future this season. That’s a matter for this summer.
If George makes an All-NBA team and qualifies for the Designated Player Exception, the Pacers will be able to offer him a fat five-year extension, that’s added on top of next year, he’ll be hard-pressed to turn down. That could keep him in under lock and key for the next six years.
But if George doesn’t make an All-NBA squad, the more likely outcome at this point, he probably won’t sign an extension at all. The Pacers then have a decision to make: Do they roll the dice on him making an All-NBA team in 2017-18 so they’re able to offer him that five-year pact in 2018, when he’s eligible for free agency (player option)? Do they hope he’ll stay put regardless, basing his decision more on the direction of the roster?
Or, more painfully, do they resign to trading him this offseason or sometime next year, knowing the Lakers bugaboo looms large, and that George is unlikely to remain with them past 2017-18?
Talk about your dilemmas.
Fortunately for Bird, February would have been a little early to make the call. Unfortunately for Bird, he and the Pacers soon won’t have the luxury of time.