Paul George Signs Long-Term Deal to Remain with Pacers

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by Scott Agness | @ScottAgness

September 25, 2013

This day was going to happen; there was no doubt about it. After the progress Pacers swingman Paul George has made since the team selected him at No. 10 in the 2010 draft, and his enhanced role as their go-to guy this past season, the 23-year-old received a well-deserved contract extension. It all became official Wednesday morning when he signed the recently approved, freshly printed contract.

All along, the Pacers made it known that they were going to keep George in a Pacers uniform. After all, they had the leverage. George, almost to his fault, made his thoughts abundantly clear as well.

“I was supposed to have a poker face about this whole situation but my heart was really here,” George said. “I couldn’t see myself going anywhere else.”

George’s deal – five years, estimated to be north of $90 million – ensures that the team’s franchise player is with the team for years to come. He does have a player option for 2018-19, the final year of the deal.

George said you could call his new contract a maximum deal. “It’s not the ultimate number but it’s up there.”

The exact value cannot be determined until next July when the 2014-15 salary cap will be announced and by then, they will also know whether George was named to one of three All-NBA teams. If he does – last year he was named All-NBA Third Team – George’s check would be even larger.

“I’m really not worried about where I’ll fall,” he said. “At the end of my day, I think I’ll be first or second team, third team. I think that’s very reachable, very possible for me. I’m setting the pressure high as to say I want to be first team this year.”

Added Pacers President Larry Bird: “Do we expect him to be a first-teamer? Yeah, we do. And if he is, it helps both of us. We both benefit from it.”

Pacers coach Frank Vogel received contract extension himself in January, so he knows the meaning of this for both George and the entire organization.

“It’s such an exciting day for our franchise and our fan base,” he said. “To have a guy like Paul under contract for this many years to come, the reward he deserves, he just really represents everything we would want him to.”

When George walked through the doors of the Fieldhouse for the first time after being taken by the team, Vogel immediately appreciated his approach. He called it “refreshing,” and noticed how George’s work ethic rubbed off on others.

“You couldn’t create on a computer a better all around package than Paul George brings to the Indiana Pacers and our fan base here,” Vogel added.

As far as George’s teammates are concerned, the teasing has already begun. (Good to know things haven’t changed with this group.) George Hill and Roy Hibbert are now calling him ‘big money.’

This past season, George averaged 17.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.8 steals while starting in every game he played in. But just like his income, things are going to change for George – the expectations, the pressure, the demands, and the headaches.

“I just see myself as our guy, our team’s guy,” he stated. “Whatever it is, it has to start with me.”

With his mother, Paulette, father, Paul Sr., and one of his older sisters, Teiosha, looked on from the front row, all they could do was smile. They remember little Paul in California and were now gushing over the man he has become today.

“This is his dream so we’re just following his dream with him,” said Paul George Sr.

As hundreds watched in the entry pavilion, including Lance Stephenson, C.J. Watson, Solomon Hill, staff members and likely thousands more online, George had his moment. He had already accomplished his dream of making it into the league. Now, he was being rewarded – and trusted – heavily with the responsibility of being the new face of the franchise.

“Since I’ve been little, this is the only thing I wanted to do was play basketball,” George explained. “Everyday that I can, I will play and try to get better and work on my craft. That’s just been me. I’ve always been a hard worker. I always devote all my time into whatever my passion was. This is my passion so I’m going to get better, continue to work and try my best to get us over that hump.”

“I can’t be much more happier to be here in Indiana and call this my home.”

The Negotiation Process

After the season, Pacers officials sat down and decided on a number they could both offer Paul and feel good about. Once they received the salary cap figures for the year on July 8, negotiations commenced with George’s well-respected agent, Aaron Mintz. Even though it was understood that the Pacers would keep George and George wanted to stay in Indianapolis, both sides say the process was still complicated.

“It’s never simple,” Bird said. “The league didn’t give us the contract back until after midnight last night. It’s never easy. You got to come up with numbers that work for both. If I don’t like the contract, I’m going to try get rid of him tomorrow. And he’s not going to be happy if he doesn’t get what he thinks [he should get].”

Finally, the two sides agreed on terms, most specifically on a dollar amount, that both could feel good about. That happened Tuesday evening, even though they had until Oct. 31 to get something done before next summer.

Mintz said there were no distractions throughout the process and that they were always destined to have success because two great sides were involved.

“There was no way Paul’s mind was anywhere other than staying here,” he said.

Bird, who is always refreshingly candid when speaking to reporters, said George is his first max player, “and hopefully the last."

“Guys getting max in this league, are getting max. The guys that accomplish things two years in a row can get more. So that was the negotiation point that was tough.”

Having the contract extension behind him, more than three days before camp opens, allows George to now solely focus on training and getting better. He’s appreciative that the whole process is over with so that he needs not to worry about his level of play nor the numbers he needs to average. He can be himself and play freely – not allowing anything to creep into his mind.

One teammate that can relate with George and keep him in check, if need be, is center Roy Hibbert. Last summer, the team signed Hibbert to a new deal worth $58 million over four years.

“Since day one, he’s been a big brother,” George said of Hibbert. “He took me under his wing and showed me the ropes. Roy is someone that I look up to. He’s been a role model for me. ... He’s set the tone and set the bar of what a professional is.”

What does today’s announcement further demonstrate? The Pacers love what they have and take care of their own. Last summer, Hibbert and Hill were rewarded with new contracts. This offseason, David West and George have earned new deals, guaranteeing that the team’s core from last year remains in tact not just for this upcoming season but also for years to come.

Indiana Feels Like Home

In three short years, George has acclimated himself with Indianapolis and become an active part of the community. He teamed up with Hill to start the G2 Zone; he’s spent time at local hospitals, most recently Riley Hospital for Children; and he’s now a homeowner on Geist Reservoir.

“I probably wave at about 20 or 30 people every time I go home,” George said. “It’s pretty crazy. I just recently purchased a house on Geist, which I love – the whole community. I have kids bringing me grapes. It’s just crazy. I’ve never felt so a part of something and a part of the community like that. …It’s really love here and somewhere I love to call my home.”

More Endorsements Coming?

George’s young career is just taking off. He earned his way into the national spotlight last season by his ferocious defense, being named to his first All-Star team, and leading the Pacers to the conference finals.

Now with a max deal, and subsequently becoming the face of the Pacers, might more endorsers be calling?

“I would hope so,” George said with a big smile. “I’ll keep my cell phone on for anything that’s going to happen in the future. I hope this will open me up to many other opportunities.”

George, who’s just 23, said back in July that he had already heard from a number companies and that it was all about being the right fit. He’s a budding star in the NBA, with fashion sense and a personality that pleases fans and companies.

“I think people are starting to get a glimpse of not only his game, but his personality and his character,” said Mintz. “I think those aspects are what are pivotal to endorsement companies.”

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