Indiana Pacers President Larry Bird stepped down Friday, but according to Sam Amick of USA Today, the move hasn’t changed Paul George’s thoughts on free agency (h/t Dan Duangdao of Lakers Index).
Amick reported Saturday that George “is still hell-bent on joining the Los Angeles Lakers. Maybe now more than ever.”
However, that may not have a whole lot to do with Bird’s departure, with Amick writing that “by all accounts, Bird’s decision to step aside has no impact on how George sees the Pacers situation. He has the utmost respect for Larry Legend,” and that George has similar regard for new decision maker Kevin Pritchard.
So reading between the lines, if Bird stepping down had “no impact” on George’s decision, but that he might be more focused than ever on getting himself to Los Angeles, then it would seem to stand to reason that George is becoming more committed on getting to the Lakers as time passes.
If true, then it would seem to bode well for the Lakers’ chances to sign George in free agency next summer rather than giving up assets for him in a potential trade. The risk there is that another team could trade for George and make him happy (and thus get him to re-sign), or that George could make an All-NBA team next year and be eligible to get far more money from the Pacers than any other suitor.
Still, in the position the Lakers are in right now, they have to consider whether or not they could keep George happy if they gut their roster in order to get him, thus potentially putting an artificial ceiling on their future ala the New York Knicks with Carmelo Anthony. You never want to be the Knicks with Carmelo Anthony.
Whatever the team decides, it is a good sign for the Lakers as an organization that a star player like George appears to be so focused on wearing their uniform. Whether or not that actually comes to fruition, it could be a sign of other players in the league beginning to feel similarly in the near future.
Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here or listen to our latest episode on George below), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.