The Los Angeles Lakers are presenting themselves as a franchise prepared to go into free agency as bargain budget spenders while they bunker down for the summer of 2018. They’ve made their move of the summer, trading D’Angelo Russell for future salary cap space.
The Paul George rumors that had enveloped the franchise leading into draft night are lukewarm at best now, and perhaps that’s for the better. The Lakers’ refusal to include Lonzo Ball and/or Brandon Ingram in trade discussions has left the Indiana Pacers digging for other options, and keeping both young talents is definitely in the franchise’s best interest.
While the Pacers posture for the right deal, George is apparently still making it clear his plan is to join the Lakers in the summer of 2018, reports Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times:
According to people not authorized to speak publicly, George, a Palmdale native, is still telling friends that he intends to be a Laker in 2018. Because of that, he knows the Lakers have little incentive to trade for him now.
The Lakers have put themselves in position to outright sign George next summer, dumping Timofey Mozgov’s contract ahead of time to begin carving a path to two maximum contract slots. Whether that comes attached with a certain player whose first name starts with LeBron and ends with James is another thing entirely.
It’s also worth noting that George is aware of the fact that Los Angeles really has no reason to gut their roster to trade for him immediately, and leaks like this are exactly why. Teams like the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers are still in the hunt, but even armed with that information, Paul is telling people he’s going to be wearing purple and gold in 2018.
The Lakers appear to be operating under that assumption, and this only puts more pressure on Indiana to get some return on George before he becomes the most painful thing to leave Indiana since the series finale of Parks and Recreation.