As Paul George reportedly attempts to get LeBron James and Klay Thompson to join him in Los Angeles with the Lakers, other teams are circling the Indiana Pacers like sharks to chum trying to swipe George away from his purple-and-gold superteam dreams.
The Cleveland Cavaliers’ pursuit of George has been well-chronicled, and it sounds like they aren’t the only team that wants a piece of the Pacers’ All-Star. Adrian Wojnarowski of the Vertical reports that the Boston Celtics are trying to sign Gordon Hayward in free agency and then trade for George using their treasure trove of draft picks.
Doing so would be a stunning about-face for the Celtics, who typically are just rumored in every major star trade before ultimately sitting on their hands.
The Celtics could certainly offer a better package for George than the Lakers in a bidding war, and the only thing thus far keeping teams from doing so has been how “hell-bent” George reportedly is on getting to Los Angeles. Boston may not be concerned with that, according to Wojnarowski:
The Celtics have a growing confidence they could sign George to a contract extension, and keep him from leaving to his predetermined free-agent destination of the Los Angeles Lakers, league sources told The Vertical. Boston’s belief that it can make George more than a one-year rental is fueling the franchise’s willingness to part with a significant package of assets, league sources said.
Indiana could potentially allow George and his representation to speak to potential suitors about a contract extension should a trade happen, but that permission hasn’t been granted yet, league sources told The Vertical.
If Boston — the Eastern Conference’s top seed last season — could acquire Hayward before trading for George, they could seemingly make a compelling case to get him to stay if he values winning over going home to Los Angeles.
The Washington Wizards could present a similar case if they got a deal done for George, and it’s a case that star point guard John Wall is already presenting to him (via The Undefeated):
"I am talking to some guys -- Paul. I know his ultimate goal of where he wants to be. I'm trying to see if we can make something happen," Wall told The Undefeated before the NBA awards show on Monday night.
"Look at our team. We are one piece away," Wall said. "We have the point guard, we have the shooting guard, we have the center, we have the power forward. Our 3-man [Otto Porter Jr.] did great for us. You can't take nothing away from what he did. But [George] is a guy that can guard LeBron and go back at LeBron. It's a piece that you're going to need to win. If you don't have a guy who can do that, you don't have a chance.
"You got to add another star. You got to add another piece. You got to have three guys. And that's what it's looking like."
"We've been friends, and we've talked throughout the summer," Wall said. "He has to make a decision that is comfortable to him. But at the end of the day, you always have to get [elite players]. You have to go out swinging. You got to get a yes or a no."
The Wizards would likely have to sign-and-trade restricted free agent forward Otto Porter to Indiana in any potential deal for George, making their path to him significantly more complicated than Boston’s, but the main point of this is to illustrate that for all the talk of the Lakers having the upper hand here, they may not be able to wait George and the Pacers out.
George has made it clear how much he wants to get to Los Angeles, but things can change if he goes to a winning situation for a year. There is a chance they also don’t, but that may not be a gamble the Lakers can afford now that they’ve pushed all their chips to the center of the 2018 free agency table.
It’s unknown if all these whispers, comments and rumors will lead the Lakers to up their offer, but at the very least it has to be putting pressure on the Lakers’ new front office. It will be interesting to see how they respond.
Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.