According to Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports, All-Star small forward Paul George has been deflecting comments about potentially signing with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2014. George, a native of California, has joined LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony as players on Los Angeles' radar.
If the Lakers think that they have anything close to an outside chance of landing George in 2014, however, they will be disappointed.
George opened up on the situation after a recent Team USA practice, telling Spears that he's constantly hearing chatter about him coming to the Lakers. For every person telling George to leave the Indiana Pacers, however, comes another reason for George to feel cherished.
Just not in the way that Lakers fans were hoping.
"'Paul, are you coming to L.A.? Let's get you in L.A.' That's all I've been hearing since I've been out here," George told Yahoo! Sports after Monday's practice at USA Basketball minicamp.
"Everywhere I go [in L.A.] they say, 'We want you here. Don't sign with the Pacers,' " George said. "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 Lakers may want George, and he could even desire to join them—it just isn't going to happen in 2014.
This is more news that can be thrown into your inbox folder titled, "Why are you telling me this?" It's not news that the Lakers are targeting James, 'Melo and George, because everyone will be targeting three of the NBA's premier players.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, George is not going to be joining them in 2014.
Restricted Free Agent
Oftentimes, viewers will hear that a player is entering free agency and work under the assumption that it becomes a free-for-all. The truth of the matter is, there are two different classifications of free agents and each has a significant impact on their future.
In George's case, he's set to become a restricted free agent in 2014.
The Lakers can still extend an offer to George, but any deal that they propose can be matched by the Pacers. In other words, no matter what Los Angeles throws his way, Indiana reserves the right to pay George that same amount.
Anyone who thinks the Lakers can outspend the Pacers either isn't familiar with the rules of the CBA or doesn't realize how valued George is in Indiana.
George is fresh off of a regular season in which he broke through in Danny Granger's absence, winning the Most Improved Player of the Year award. During the Eastern Conference Finals, he matched James at almost every turn, thus flirting with the label of a superstar.
With this in mind, what would possess the Pacers to let George walk? Barring one of the most attractive sign-and-trade packages ever assembled, we cannot imagine that they will.
Not only would the Pacers match any offer the Lakers sent his way, thus retaining the rights to George's contract, but they might not even let it get to that point.
According to Marc Stein of ESPN, the Pacers have entered discussions with George on a contract extension. Stein's sources say that it's a "foregone conclusion" that Indiana will offer George a max contract, which is exactly what he'd be in the market for during the 2014 period of free agency.
Will the Los Angeles Lakers sign Paul George in 2014?
Expect him to sign the extension and save himself a headache.
Eric Gordon agreed to a max contract with the Phoenix Suns during the 2012 offseason, publicly stating that he didn't want the New Orleans Pelicans to match it. Even still, the Pelicans matched the offer and Gordon's first season back with the team was tumultuous, at best.
Why would George want to go through that same process?
Not only is George the franchise player in Indiana, but as it presently stands, the Pacers have a better shot at the title than the Lakers do. While Indiana has its core locked up for the foreseeable future, both Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol will be free agents in 2014.
The Lakers may have name value, but they lack the one thing that matters most—the means to acquire George in 2014.