Paul George Snubs LA Lakers, Prefers to Re-Sign with Indiana Pacers
Even if he was thought of by fans as a potential free-agent target after the 2013-14 season, he's going to remain with the Indiana Pacers.
The Lakers will inevitably be gunning for the big names on the open market during the summer of 2014, but they should focus their attention on LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Zach Randolph and the other players who could actually be unrestricted free agents if they opt out of their contracts.
George has been spending time in Las Vegas training at the USA Basketball minicamp, which means he's been subjected to an inordinate number of requests and questions centered around his potential future with the Lakers. That's what happens when you get close to Hollywood.
It's an understandable phenomenon, given his burgeoning stock and hometown ties to Los Angeles, and George isn't letting it faze him, as Yahoo! Sports' Marc J. Spears relayed:
Everywhere I go [in L.A.] they say, 'We want you here. Don't sign with the Pacers.' I hear that constantly. It's getting a little repetitive…but I'm getting used to it. I understand it. I can't really be mad about it. It's a great feeling when people in the stands really want you.
The All-Star swingman might not be mad about the constant badgering, but he's also not letting the words of the Lakers' fanbase sway him. As Spears reported, George has explicitly stated both that he's happy in Indiana and that it wouldn't be a smart move for him to leave the Pacers behind for a chance to wear purple and gold.
This sentiment is shared by the man who ultimately has control over the decision: Larry Bird.
No matter what George wants, he's a restricted free agent if he plays out the 2013-14 season without signing an extension. Even if he signs a max offer sheet with the Lakers, Indiana still can (and will) match. Bird himself said this much in an interview with Indianapolis' 1070 The Fan, as Dan Feldman of NBC Sports reported:
We’re trying to sign Paul. It’s not as easy as it looks. We’re going to make a major offer to him. It’s going to be up to him whether he accepts or not or goes out into the free-agency market. If he does, we’re going to match. But we’d like to get something done. We know he wants to be here. He’s a great kid. He’s one of the nicest young men you’ll ever meet, and he’s a good player. And we think we should take care of him.
Will Paul George be with the Pacers beyond next season?
George's ceiling is still unknown, even after he averaged 17.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game throughout his breakout campaign.
NBA fans everywhere should consider themselves fortunate as they get to witness George testing those upper limits, and Indiana supporters in particular should be thrilled. Bird and the Pacers' star player both seem to be on the same page.
It's time for L.A. to move on and pursue a more realistic target.
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