Shootaround (June 23) -- Paul George trade talk a 'gut punch' to Indiana Pacers' brass

Plus, a look at why the Celtics held tight on Draft night and other news from around the NBA

NBA.com Staff

This morning’s headlines:

* * *

Pacers president: George remarks a ‘gut punch’ — The Indiana Pacers are well aware that their chances of keeping Paul George around long term are all but over. He has had his name in trade talks for the last week — and in particular during last night’s NBA Draft. As the Pacers try to figure out their next moves, president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard told reporters that a call he had with George’s agent last week left him, in a sense, at a loss. Nate Taylor of the Indianapolis Star has more:

Kevin Pritchard hasn’t talked to Paul George since last week at Victory Field for the annual celebrity softball game that was hosted by George.

Two days later, Pritchard received a phone call from Aaron Mintz, George’s agent. The message Mintz’s delivered to Pritchard — that George intends to leave the Indiana Pacers as a free agent after next season — was grim. Since then, Pritchard has tried to position the Pacers’ future in the best possible direction with the understanding that he needs to trade George before next season.

After Thursday’s NBA draft, Pritchard acknowledged how he felt following that phone call from Mintz.

“For me it was gut punch,” Pritchard said. “It was a total gut punch because we had many conversations over the summer about players that we’d like to add, a little bit of a style we’d like to play. In my opinion, I was very inclusive with (George) and the message over the summer up until this weekend was, ‘Let’s build a winning team.’ When that came in that he wanted to look at another place, it was gut punch for us.”

The timing of the conversation with Mintz, Pritchard said, couldn’t have come at a worse time with the Pacers in the midst of what will likely be one of the most turbulent offseasons in the franchise’s history. Similar to fans, Pritchard also said he, too, felt upset and disappointed with George’s sudden change in believing that the Pacers could be competitive in the future.

“Becoming public was a big issue,” Pritchard said. “The conversation with his agent was very challenging.”

Before the draft, Pritchard engaged in trade talks with teams such as the Boston Celtics, Houston Rockets, Cleveland Cavaliers and the Lakers. The Washington Wizards, San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers have also shown interested in acquiring George, according to several media reports. Many analysts felt the Pacers needed to agree to a trade before the draft ended to receive the maximum compensation possible for George.

Pritchard didn’t believe such a deadline was important.

“Everybody thought today’s date was a trigger date because draft picks were in involved, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do things into the future – future draft picks, players today, young players, older and established players,” Pritchard said. “We’re keeping everything on the board. There’s so much other stuff that doesn’t include draft picks that we decided to stay put and look at everything that’s on the board in the future. We’re not going to make a bad deal. We want to get what we want and that’s what we pursue.”

If no trade is made this summer, George, according to a source, would still be comfortable playing out the final year of his contract next season for the Pacers. George respects Pritchard, former team president Larry Bird and coach Nate McMillan.

When asked about the fans’ anger at George, Pritchard said he understood their emotions and why many who support the Pacers don’t want to see George play another game in the team’s blue and gold uniform.

“You’ve got to get past mad,” Pritchard said. “He has his own perspective of the situation and I tried to see that through his eyes. I can be empathetic because he wants to go back home, or potentially go back home. But I have to get past mad because we will make good decision around here if we’re methodical. We didn’t put ourselves in it, he did. I know he likes Indiana. I don’t think it’s that. It’s not ideal for us, but we have to do what’s best for our organization.”

* * *

Clippers’ Frank says Jordan was never on trading block — In the days leading up to the 2017 NBA Draft, a report from ESPN.com began to circulate that the LA Clippers were looking to trade DeAndre Jordan. With the Draft officially in the books, LA Clippers executive Lawrence Frank says that Jordan was never put in that position by the team:

“DeAndre was never, ever dangled out there,” Frank said.

League sources previously told ESPN’s Chris Haynes that the Clippers have gauged the market on potentially trading Jordan, a nine-year veteran who has twice made the All-Defensive first team and played in his first All-Star game this past season. Sources said the Clippers, in an exploratory fashion, spoke to a few teams about him.

“DeAndre’s a cornerstone to what we do, and it’s funny, if you track every rumor, literally every single player outside of maybe the guys on Golden State and LeBron were mentioned,” Frank said. “So, you know, in the front office what we’ve learned quickly is you can’t dispel everything.

“We love DJ. DJ’s gonna be here for a long, long time as far as we’re concerned.”

* * *

Celtics again pass on big Draft night deal — Just as in the 2016 Draft, the Boston Celtics entered last night’s event with a top 5 picks, some favorable contracts and a willingness to deal. And just like in 2016, the Celtics opted to not make a major move and, instead, use their No. 3 pick to take Duke’s Jayson Tatum. Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald breaks down the Celtics’ draft night and what may lie ahead:

No splash, no fireworks, nothing other than what Danny Ainge has predicted since he traded down for the third pick in last night’s NBA draft.

The Celtics president of basketball operations took a player he has liked for a long time, combo forward Jayson Tatum of Duke. He resisted the temptations teams across the league were offering for that golden pile of assets Ainge continues to protect like a Brinks guard.

“There’s been a history over the last three or four years in the league of making outrageous demands for trades,” said Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck. “Lot of people refuse to give in to those demands, and that’s why we have these picks and make them.”

By the time Ainge went on the clock, longtime target Jimmy Butler was on his way to Minneapolis, and a brief but tempestuous flirtation with New York over acquiring Kristaps Porzingis turned out to be nothing more than a hot air discharge from Madison Square Garden.

The 7-foot-3 Latvian also known as the Unicorn never materialized in green. The Celtics instead stuck to their draft plan and secured a player who, according to fellow Blue Devil alumnus/team owner Steve Pagliuca, the team has long prized.

Tatum is one of the most gifted offensive players Mike Krzyzewski has ever coached, and Brad Stevens could again see why after the 6-foot-8 forward’s Celtics workout last Monday.

“He never changed his expression,” Stevens said last night of Tatum’s workout demeanor. “Went at a high tempo, but when he missed a shot he never showed anything but resolve to make the next one.”

Consider Ainge’s brief attempt to pry Porzingis loose from one of the more mercurial characters in the NBA — Knicks president Phil Jackson.

The Celtics began the afternoon waiting for the monumental asking price on Porzingis to drop.

A league source confirmed a New York Daily News report that Jackson was asking for last night’s No. 3 pick, next year’s Brooklyn first-round pick, Jaylen Brown and Jae Crowder.

In the meantime Ainge has much more to look forward to, starting with the first round of 2018 draft, when he holds the rights to the final Brooklyn pick in his satchel, a Lakers first-rounder if it falls between the second and fifth picks, and his own.

It will be a long time before Ainge has to deal out of desperation.

* * *

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Synergy Sports’ scouting reports for every player picked last night … Who were the big winners and losers in the 2017 Draft? … LaVar Ball made a bold prediction for his son, Lonzo, and his new team … All the trades that happened last night in one easy place … Lakers GM Rob Pelinka is eyeing a ‘championship pathway’ for the team now …