Paul George Talks Team USA, Long-Term Plans
July 26, 2013
Amidst all the chatter about Pacers’ emerging star Paul George, some fail to consider that the Pacers hold the power to keep him with the Blue and Gold. Not just because the situation seemingly fits him perfectly, but also because they have “Bird Rights” on George, as outlined in the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
The Pacers are trying to sign him to a contract extension before Oct. 31, but should he become a restricted free agent next summer, Pacers president Larry Bird has said the organization can – and will – match any deal out there. In this case, it’s not a matter of deciding whether to keep him, it’s just about getting it done.
In a conversation with Pacers.com, George explained that talks are already in progress.
“We’re talking now,” he said. “It’s still in the rough draft form. It’s a long summer and we’re not rushing it. I think we’re both on the same page as far as myself and the Pacers. … I’m just focusing on getting better and making sure whatever deal that we do come up with, that I’m ready for it.”
The Pacers will have a big chunk of money available after the 2013-14 season when Danny Granger’s $14.2 million comes off the books. George, who was named to the All-Star team last season and the league’s Most Improved Player, will likely receive a maximum deal worth an average of $16 million per year for five years.
With the weight of a new contract already in the forefront of his mind and others now pestering him about his future, George expressed his desire to have the whole thing over with before this coming season.
“It’s something that I would love, obviously,” he said. “I would love to have something done going into the season just to take my mind off that and really get to practicing and focusing on getting better this summer. It would be ideal if I could get it done going into training camp.”
George was in Las Vegas this week to participate in USA Basketball’s National Team minicamp with 27 others. The young crop of talent put in work, all in hopes of catching the eye of USA Basketball officials for the chance to play on the 2014 World Cup team next summer. George is widely considered a favorite to be added to the roster.
The experience was a success for the 23-year-old, who had 10 points and six rebounds in Thursday night’s scrimmage to conclude the week.
“It was an experience to learn so much stuff that I took away from this time around,” said George. “It was definitely a learning experience and it was great being coached by coach Krzyzewski. There’s just so much talent out there so you’re trying to find those things out that you can pull away from these guys to get better moving forward.”
This was George’s second straight year being invited to camp. Last year, he was on the Select Team, whose job it was to prepare the National Team for the 2012 Olympics. In the process, George closely observed what made the Olympic players some of the best in the world. This summer, George keyed on taking a leadership role.
One of the perks of the camp was being able to work with and pick the brains of so many talented coaches, none more impressive than National Team head coach Mike Krzyzewski. Coach K told George this week that he had watched the leaps made by George, who believes he can win the NBA’s MVP award one day, but Krzyzewski believes there’s still plenty of room for growth.
“Coach wanted me to just be aggressive,” George said. “He knows I can do everything well but he really wanted me to come out here and be aggressive, look to make plays, look to score and really let the game come to me but at the same time, be aggressive.”
During this offseason, George has already made his annual trip to China with Nike. He’s spent most of his time home in California working out by himself. In previous years, he’d workout daily with Danny Granger, but No. 33 has remained in Indianapolis this summer to focus on his rehab with team trainers.
George said he’ll likely return to Indiana earlier than normal this fall to get even more comfortable with the guys and “just get that chemistry starting early.”
As he continues to elevate his game, his brand has followed. During the playoffs, he gave his teammates customized Pacers headphones and high-quality slippers. The offers are now pouring in for George so he’s working with his agent to do deals with those companies that best fit his brand.
“I got so many offers now so it’s all about what moves are good for my brand and what moves aren’t,” he said. “Going forward, you’ll see the spice I got.”
George is a big shoe guy and he always coordinates his shoes with the team uniform. He already has a deal with Nike but when asked whether he has a signature shoe in the works, he only said, “We’re working on it.”
The past eight months have been a whirlwind for George, who burst onto the scene and played at an elite level – at both ends of the floor – beginning in December. David West may be the backbone of the team, George Hill may be the coach on the floor and Roy Hibbert may be the last line of defense, but Paul George is the new face of the Pacers. And that’s a role he fully embraces … for years to come.
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