Paul George will be a free agent in the summer of 2018, and he hasn’t exactly been committal about inking a long-term deal in Indy, leaving Larry Bird has no choice but to consider trading his franchise player.
The Los Angeles Lakers are reportedly one of several teams who’ve called the Indiana Pacers about George’s availability.
Magic Johnson and Larry Bird can now negotiate trades against/with each other. Wrap your head around that.
— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) February 21, 2017
The All-Star forward recently met with Pacers ownership, and told them he wants to stay, but only if he can contend for an NBA title.
While the conversation didn’t go beyond an initial expression of interest — which is common in the NBA in advance of the trade deadline — it’s notable simply for the names involved: New Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and Pacers president Larry Bird, lifelong rivals and close friends, were on the phone together.
In his first full day in charge, after Tuesday’s stunning promotion from an advisory role in the wake of the twin dismissals of longtime Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak and executive vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss, Johnson arrived at the Lakers’ offices early Wednesday to work the trade phones and, yes, throw in a call to Bird.
Sources confirmed to ESPN in the wake of that meeting that Indiana has since invited teams such as the Lakers and Boston Celtics to make pitches for George in advance of Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET trade deadline. The Pacers, at the same time, also continue to pursue roster upgrades of their own, after ESPN’s Chris Haynes reported last week that the Pacers have made their first-round pick in the June draft available in trade conversations in hopes of strengthening George’s supporting cast.