'Paul George wants to wear purple and gold,' according to former Pacers teammates

By @saihoops on
Paul George, Paul George trade, Los Angeles Lakers, Paul George to Lakers
Mar 5, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (13) dribbles around the arch against Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap (4) and forward Thabo Sefolosha (25) during the first quarter at Philips Arena. USA TODAY Sports / John David Mercer

A new report claims that Paul George has never hidden from teammates his desire to eventually play for hometown franchise, the Los Angeles Lakers. George and the Indiana Pacers suffered a 4-0 series sweep against the Cleveland Cavaliers Sunday after LeBron James and Kyrie Irving combined for 61 points in a 106-102 road victory.

After Sunday’s loss, several insiders proclaimed George had played his final game in a Pacers uniform. Though the NBA's new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) empowers Indiana to out-bid rival suitors in next year's free agency, the Pacers front office could be tempted to press the reset button and acquire young players to pair with blossoming centre Myles Turner. 

According to Mike DeCourcy of Sporting News, George has always wanted to wear Purple & Gold. "A SoCal (Southern California) native, he’s been talking about playing for his hometown team, the Lakers, for a long time. He’s never made his long-term intentions a secret within the Pacers’ locker room, according to former teammates. He wants to wear the purple and gold," DeCourcy wrote in his report published Monday.

Paul George to Lakers seems inevitable

Prior to February's NBA Trade Deadline, new Lakers president Magic Johnson reportedly called Pacers counterpart Larry Bird to discuss the possibility of a Paul George trade. Since the Pacers were still in contention for the playoffs, Bird felt the need to give George & Co. another postseason run. However, the clean sweep at the hands of the Cavs will likely propel Indiana to get rid of the veterans and start over. Also, George’s trade value would likely plummet if the Pacers delay the inevitable. Teams would be hesitant to part with assets for a player approaching free agency next summer.

If George were to qualify for an All-NBA team, he is eligible for the "Designated Veteran Extension" and the Pacers could offer him a six-year, $US223 million (AU$294 million) contract. If not, the team with George’s Bid Rights could still offer the All-Star forward a five-year max contract (30 percent of the salary cap). 

Lakers need luck on NBA Draft Lottery night

If the Lakers don't retain their Top-3 protected draft pick, they could be forced to wait a year before signing George in NBA Free Agency 2018. Otherwise, Johnson would have to part with at least two out of D'Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle to have a fair shot at pulling off a Paul George trade.

The report added that Magic Johnson wouldn't hesitate to pursue a Paul George trade come NBA Draft night. "So it’s no surprise that Johnson will probably pursue George and set out to build a title team around him, according to multiple sources who have known Johnson over the years. Johnson knows it’s rare when a player of George’s talents can be obtained, via a trade or through free agency. It’s not as if he’ll be able to get LeBron, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard or anyone else who’s rated ahead of George."

Paul George averaged 23.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.3 assists in his seventh season for the Indiana Pacers. The two-way wing was drafted 10th overall by the Pacers in 2010. George led the Pacers to two Eastern Conference finals appearances besides making three All-NBA and All-Defensive Teams.