The rumors of Pacers star forward Paul George wanting to come to Los Angeles to play for the Lakers have been circulating for awhile now. Most recently, George appeared on Jimmy Kimmel’s show discussing his preparation to train with Kobe Bryant in the offseason and he was asked about potentially joining the team. George demurred from answering on the show, but the rumor mill keeps right on churning.
The latest one comes from USA Today’s Sam Amick, who, in a long piece on the connections between George and the Lakers, included plenty of interesting nuggets, the biggest of which is the revelation that George believes he can return the team to its former glory. From the story:
“But after making it all the way back from his horrific leg break in the summer of 2014, and threatening to unseat the great LeBron James in those back-to-back Heat-Pacers conference finals, George finds himself more focused on legacy than ever. And whether it’s realistic or not, the 27-year-old who grew up idolizing Bryant in Palmdale, Calif. clearly believes he can lift the Lakers out of the darkness.”
George was left off of the All-NBA teams when they were announced yesterday, which was the catalyst for Amick’s piece. As he explains, George, had he made an All-NBA team, could have been eligible for a “supermax” contract offer from the Pacers to the tune of five years and $207 million when he presumably becomes a free agent next summer. That contract would have theoretically been pretty hard to pass up.
Now, the Pacers can’t offer a contract that is significantly more money than George would make were he to leave for a new team (IE the Lakers) in free agency. However, if George makes an All-NBA team next season, that contract would still be in play. But, the main point of Amick’s piece is to point out that sources close to George are giving him the indication that the Palmdale native feels that he can elevate the Lakers back to the ranks of the contenders if he signs with them in 2018.
One thing to remember as all of this speculation continues: George has a player option for the 2018-19 season. He’s expected to decline it and enter free agency, but we’ve seen stranger things happen before.