Paul George's agent told the Indiana Pacers that his star client plans to leave the team during free agency in the summer of 2018 and prefers to play for the Los Angeles Lakers, according to a report from The Vertical.
Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical also reported the Pacers had started trade talks with numerous teams about Paul George, not including the Lakers.
Sources: Indiana's Kevin Pritchard engaging teams on trading Paul George, but so far, not Lakers. There's a rental market, but how robust? https://t.co/oM9XrATMr9— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) June 18, 2017
Paul told reporters on Thursday at his celebrity softball game in Indianapolis that “I’m under contract as a Pacer. That’s all that needs to really be known. I’m here. I’m a Pacer. Again, what I’ve been dealing with is stories. You guys talking or teams talking. I’m a Pacer. There’s no way around that. This is my team, my group and this is where I’m at.”
He reiterated his desire to win a championship with the Pacers and said he and president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard are on the same page.
But the latest report isn’t surprising. Just before the trade deadline in February, USA TODAY Sports reported that George was “hell bent” on joining the Lakers. It’s also no secret that Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson is a George fan.
Heading to the Lakers would put George, who will make $19.5 million in 2017-18, close to his hometown of Palmdale, Calif., just on the other side of the San Gabriel Mountains from Los Angeles.
As a free agent in 2018, George can sign a maximum deal with another team for four years worth $131.58 million. The Pacers can offer him a five-year, $177.48 million but that option appears unlikely for George.
Had George been named All-NBA on the first, second or third teams – as voted on my members of the media – he would’ve been eligible for a designated veteran’s max, allowing him to receive a five-year, $207 million deal from the Pacers. That didn’t happen, and George doesn’t have to worry about leaving $70 million plus on the table by leaving the Pacers.
Now, the Pacers must make a decision: try to trade him for some assets or let him walk with nothing in return. The former is difficult. No team, including the Lakers, will give up much for George knowing he is intent on joining the Lakers. The best-case scenario for Indiana is getting something from the Lakers, who want to make sure they get George instead of waiting for free agency.
Former Brooklyn Nets executive Bobby Marks tweeted that the Lakers do not have space to add a maximum salary player in 2018 and would need to trade contracts to make room for George.
Follow USA TODAY Sports' Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt.