Paul George is suffering from the seven-year itch and hopes it doesn’t become a rash.
He has spent seven years in Indiana and enjoyed some solid seasons but no championships and no reasonable expectations of one this season, where the Pacers dwell in the middle of the pack in the East. Naturally, the subject of his future has come up and George said there’s no guarantee that future will be with the Pacers.
He appeared on ESPN radio recently and said this: “As I told Larry (Bird, the Pacers’ president), I always want to play on a winning team. I want to be a part of a team that has a chance to win (it all). That’s important … I want to compete for something.”
For the sake of context, he also added: “I want to be the first to bring a championship to Indiana.”
George has one more guaranteed year remaining on his contract and a player option for 2018-19. Which means, there’s no great sense of urgency by the Pacers to get George’s signature on a contract, not yet anyway.
However, the risk of having George on a potentially expiring deal next season would put the Pacers in a tough spot. Would they entertain trade offers for George? Will he demand a trade? Or will the two sides cut a deal, keeping in mind that Indiana can pay him far more (potentially $80 million more) on a max deal than anyone else?
Right now it’s just noise, perhaps borne out of Indiana’s current six-game losing streak; they were one of the hottest teams in basketball prior to the streak.
The Pacers are a team caught in transition from the buoyant seasons when George, David West, George Hill and Roy Hibbert were good enough to win 50-plus games and push the LeBron-led Miami Heat. Only George remains and he’s also the Pacers’ only All-Star in New Orleans. They do have a solid and developing big man in Myles Turner but the rest of the cast is unspectacular and perhaps aren’t suited for long-term success. Unquestionably, Bird will be forced to re-tool the roster once again next summer, to some degree, if only to remain competitive in the East and keep George happy and confident in the future.
In terms of contracts, Bird said earlier this season he would like to give George a max and then added: “This year we’re not going to worry about it, we’re not going to talk about it and he’s going to make the decision that’s best for Paul when it comes down to it.”