As predicted, Paul George fell one spot shy of earning his second-consecutive All-NBA selection and qualifying for the league’s newly created Designated Player Exception (DPE), which means he will not be eligible to become an extra $70 million richer this summer.
Here’s how the final balloting shook out at the forward position:
LeBron James (498)
Kawhi Leonard (490)
Giannis Antetokounmpo (258)
Kevin Durant (239)
Draymond Green (134)
Jimmy Butler (102)
Also receiving votes: Paul George (40), Gordon Hayward (27), Paul Millsap (3), LaMarcus Aldridge (1), Blake Griffin (1), and Al Horford (1).
These results are the latest major blow sustained by the Indiana Pacers in what has already been a tumultuous week with regard to the team’s chances of holding onto their franchise star long-term.
George didn’t exactly resist the advances of Lakers Nation while appearing on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” on Monday night, as he revealed that he “loved Magic (Johnson)” and planned on working out with Kobe Bryant, who reportedly wants to be involved with the Lakers’ decision-making and player development.
It also wasn’t particularly encouraging that the four-time All-Star rather cryptically replied to a tweet by Bleacher Report which referenced Paul Pierce’s belief that the Celtics should trade the No. 1 pick they just landed in Tuesday’s Draft Lottery:
George, or perhaps some nefarious hacker, deleted the tweet within minutes of it’s publication. Of course, if the two-way star does indeed want out of Indiana, then this tweet may have actually done the Pacers a favor by indirectly communicating to the Celtics that he may not be “hell-bent” on joining the Lakers, thereby initiating some degree of a bidding war between the two storied franchises.
Meanwhile, the Pacers can still renegotiate George’s current contract, but that isn’t realistic unless they can somehow come up with a way to field a contender.
"As I told Larry, I always want to play on a winning team,” George told ESPN’s Marc Stein while discussing his future with the Pacers on ESPN Radio’s Meet the All-Stars back in February. “I always want to be part of a team that has a chance to win it [all]. That's important.”
They can also wait to see if he qualifies for the DPE next season, but that’d be cutting it too close for comfort and runs the very real risk of having him walk for nothing.
Sure, the super-max was created as a means to help small markets retain their homegrown stars, but those franchises also need to help themselves.
Larry Bird’s ill-conceived attempt to improve the team’s offensive efficiency with multiple ball-dominant scorers and paint-bound bigs was presumably done with the intent of lessening Paul George’s two-way burden. Instead, his team’s unsuccessful attempt to outrun opponents, without the benefit of consistent off-ball threats, rebounding, or sound defense, ended up producing the exact opposite result at the worst possible time.
The media shouldn’t play such a vital role in determining the weight of Paul George’s wallet, but the Pacers failed him long before it was agreed upon by the players and the owners that their votes would.