With one year remaining before he can opt out of his contract, Paul George has told the Indiana Pacers to plan for his departure in 2018, as he hopes to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency.
According to the Vertical, George “wanted to be forthright on his plans and spare the franchise any confusion about his intentions.”
While that’s a nice sentiment, allowing for Indiana to trade him for future young assets before his exit, the fact that this knowledge is now public has emaciated the once sky-high trade value George once possessed.
During the 2016-17 campaign, when bidding teams would have won George’s services for a year and a half, Pacers president Larry Bird received multiple significant offers for the four-time All-Star. One reported package, offered by the Philadelphia 76ers, included two first-round draft picks, one of big men Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel (the latter was later traded to the Dallas Mavericks), and three-and-D wing Robert Covington.
With only a single guaranteed year left on George’s contract, and his stated intention to join the Lakers in 2018-19, the Pacers will now be lucky to get a lone lottery pick or two later first-rounders in exchange.
“They’re all crazy,” George recently said of trade rumors involving him. “But all are to be expected. I’ve been dealing with this since last season, but I’m just living in the moment.”
In February, USA Today reported George was “hell-bent” on bolting for LA in free agency. At the time, the three-time All Defense teamer said he’d stay in Indy for a contender.
“As I told Larry [Bird], I always want to play on a winning team,” Goerge said. “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 wanted to be the first and want to be the first to be able to bring a championship to Indiana. So that’s still on my mind … and something I definitely want to achieve in Indiana.”