It would appear the Indiana Pacers now have a definitive answer regarding their Paul George conundrum and it’s that he won’t resign with the team next summer according to Adrian Wojnarowski. George reportedly informed GM Kevin Pritchard on Saturday regarding his decision to not resign with the team, expressing interest in heading home to play with the Los Angeles Lakers.
This decision came crashing down on the Pacers and their front office, especially given George’s apparent dedication towards winning with the Pacers as recent as Thursday at his charity softball event in Indianapolis.
Paul George said the goal remains the same: He wants to win a championship with the Pacers.— Nate Taylor (@ByNateTaylor) June 15, 2017
While there had been writing has been on the wall regarding George leaving in free agency with his player option next summer, his lip service this past week had given Pritchard and the Pacers reason to look towards continuing to build around George for the foreseeable future. Thus, the move blindsided the Pacers management while leaving them to scramble in a rental trade market for their long term goals.
Until Sat., the Pacers were fully planning with the intentions of building around Paul George. Mintz' message, per source, was a surprise.— Nate Taylor (@ByNateTaylor) June 18, 2017
With Aaron Mintz's message on Paul George's intentions, the Pacers' direction for the future is no longer set.— Nate Taylor (@ByNateTaylor) June 18, 2017
In the hours to follow, the Pacers began to reach out into the trade market sans the Lakers, with early talks reported with the Cleveland Cavaliers, who would see George as a perfect fit to gain ground on the seemingly invincible Golden State Warriors.
I can confirm @WojVerticalNBA's report that the Pacers have had early talks with Cavaliers in terms of a trade involving Paul George.— Nate Taylor (@ByNateTaylor) June 18, 2017
This story will evolve rapidly in the coming hours and days leading up to the NBA Draft, but in the meantime, seeing George suddenly tank his trade value, go back on his own words, and explicitly favor his hometown Lakers leaves many questions for Pacers fans, many of whom were ready to move on this past trade deadline. Was George’s mind made up when he expressed his desire to stay with Indiana last week? If so, what transpired within the past two days to change his mind?
There’s no fault in George looking beyond the Pacers after two years of middling progress towards returning to championship level basketball, but doing so in this sense is once again putting the Pacers in an impossible situation to get any legitimate value out of a top tier player, reminiscent of Ron Artest’s 2005 trade demand that sank his own value, forcing the Pacers to settle on a failed rental on Peja Stojakovic.
Now that it appears the Paul George era of Pacers basketball is drawing to a close, Indiana will be left to reassess their assets, including a free agent Jeff Teague, to see about whether they should build towards a future currently led by Myles Turner or look to remain competitive with diminished trade returns.