Indiana Pacers star forward Paul George inadvertently opened a can of worms, when he allowed that he might be tempted to bolt if the Los Angeles Lakers recruit him during free agency next summer.
The Pacers have made it clear that they will do everything they can to retain George (who will be a restricted free agent in 2014), and Paul sounds like he’s perfectly happy in Indy despite the persistent calls from back home in California.
Per Yahoo! Sports:
Indiana Pacers guard Paul George is spending the week here training at USA Basketball’s minicamp. And every time he runs into a Los Angeles Lakers fan in Sin City, they’ve had the same message for him: “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 said after Monday’s practice at USA Basketball minicamp. Paul will enter the final year of his $3.2 million rookie contract with the Pacers next season. The All-Star had a breakthrough year last season averaging career-highs of 17.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.1 assists. He averaged 19.2 points in the postseason while leading Indiana within one victory of the NBA Finals.
Indiana can’t offer near the same luxuries off the court that Los Angeles does. Still, George is excited about the future of the Pacers, including the recent re-signing of forward David West. George also is happy that Bird and Pacers general manager Kevin Pritchard are at USA Basketball’s minicamp to support him. The Lakers, meanwhile, are transitioning after Dwight Howard departed in free agency for the Houston Rockets. “I’m happy to be in Indiana,” George said. “I’m happy to be where I am. If I was going to leave Indiana and come to the Lakers, it just wouldn’t be a smart move for me. We got a great thing going right now.”
Even if Paul George wanted to leave, it would be nearly impossible. The Pacers can match any offer that comes his way next summer; Indiana is also a team on the rise, and poised to challenge for supremacy in the Eastern Conference for years to come.
Kobe Bryant and the Lakers will more than likely have to shop elsewhere for young talent next year.