For now, George committed to Pacers
He said nothing surprising or controversial, stuck to the script, just the facts.
Paul George is under contract to the Pacers for one more season, and it is his intent to play it out in hopes of leading the team closer to genuine contention.
“Absolutely,” he said. “Absolutely.”
And after that? Although the topic already has been much-discussed, debated and forecast in the NBA world, George fully intends to take his time making the decision about his ultimate future.
“It’ll be tough,” he said. “When I get there, hopefully I’ll be ready to sit down with my family, be ready to sit down with people close to me to make that decision. I have another year to play out before I can even think about that. So we’re going to take this thing slowly. The best part about it is I’m in the driver’s seat.”
He is that. But you can’t help but wonder if the Pacers are passengers on his journey, or baggage to be jettisoned at the first opportunity.
Speaking publicly for the first time since the season ended with a first-round sweep at the hands of the Cavaliers, George repeated his priorities: to win, preferably in Indiana.
“I’m under contract as a Pacer. That’s all that needs really be known,” he said. “I’m here. I’m a Pacer. Everything else, what I’ve been dealing with, stories, guys talking, teams talking like -- I’m a Pacer. There’s no way around that. This is my team, my group and this is where I’m at. …
“What I’ve always been preaching, moreso now is having guys I can win with and wanting to win. It came from the heart and very sincere, wanting to bring that to Indiana. That’s where my heart is going to always be at.
“They’re all crazy (rumors) but they’re expected. I’ve been dealing with this since last season, still being under contract. It’s going to take a life of its own. I understand that. I’m living in the moment and again it’s all about trying to bring a championship in Indiana.”
George said he has met with new team president Kevin Pritchard and developed a solid relationship.
“We talked right after he took the job, he came out to see me, we had a nice dinner, and we kind of shared and had the same output on what we want to get to and what’s going to help us get to that,” he said. “So his mind is in the right place, in terms of the type of players I want to play with and be around. It’s going to be tough, as it would be anywhere, to attract players, to get players so we’ll see how well we shape this team up. … I love being a part of what he’s trying to do from day one. We established a great relationship. …
“I’m all about trying to make this team better, all about trying to do what Indiana, this city, this state, I want that ring, I want to get that. Hopefully we’re all on the same page with that agenda.”
The problem is defining just how far away the Pacers are from being able to meet that goal. Though they challenged the Cavs more than any other Eastern Conference team in the playoffs, they still were swept. And then the gap between Cleveland and Golden State was made apparent in the NBA Finals, with the Warriors winning easily in five games.
With the draft upcoming, and Pritchard’s reputation for using the draft as a platform for wheeling and dealing, George will pay close attention to the moves that are made. He’ll then see what, if anything, the Pacers are able to do when the free agent market opens in July.
But he made it clear they need to do something significant.
“In ways, I definitely feel like we’re close,” he said. “It’s hard not to believe that when we’ve done the best against them and possibly could’ve won that series. You’ve got to believe that we’re right there. But at the same time we’re going to need some more talent here. We’re going to need some better players. That’s the only way to get over that hump.”
If the Pacers do indeed improve, and George has a good enough season to make one of the three All-NBA teams, he would qualify for the supermax contract extension that this year would’ve paid $210 million. With the expected rise in the cap next year, that figure would also increase.
In that scenario, the Pacers would not only offer the opportunity to compete at a high level, but vastly more money.
Which is precisely why he is no hurry to make a commitment.
In the meantime, this is his approach:
“Just let it happen, just let it happen. That’s all I’m going to do, let it happen.”