KRAVITZ: PG decision puts the reeling Pacers in the ultimate lose-lose situation

Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (13) questions a call during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs, Wednesday, March 1, 2017, in San Antonio. The Spurs won 100-99. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
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Bob Kravitz

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - Paul George just screwed the Indiana Pacers.

He screwed them in the worst way, at the worst conceivable time, with the worst possible news. reported and confirmed Sunday that Aaron Mintz, George’s agent, told the Pacers Friday that George has no intention of remaining with the Pacers after next season, when he becomes an unrestricted free agent and plans to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers.

That, of course, is his right, but the way he did it, the timing of what he did, the public way it was revealed, puts the team that drafted and helped develop him in the worst situation imaginable.

Consider the Pacers’ alternatives, all of them thoroughly unpalatable:

  • They can try to trade him to the Lakers this off-season, but if the Lakers know he’s going to sign as a free agent next summer, they won’t be willing to part with much in the way of decent young talent. They’re surely not going to move their top draft choice, the No. 2 pick overall, if that’s what you’re asking. They know they’ll be awful again next year, so why mortgage their future for a chance to have George next season?
  • They can try to trade him to another NBA team, but who is going to be interested in George as a one-year rental? There’s only one option, and it’s one the Pacers reportedly are exploring: the Cleveland Cavaliers. It’s entirely conceivable the Cavs would make a deal to acquire George, although there’s no word yet on whether George’s presence would supply LeBron James with what he views as a “super team.’’ Again, though, they won’t get equal value. Not even close.
  • They can hold on to George next season, make him play out the final year of his contract in a Pacers’ uniform, then lose him for nothing – just the way the Oklahoma City Thunder lost Kevin Durant for no compensation. And think about what a miserable situation that would be for the Pacers, for the fans and for George next year as he plays out a lame-duck season for a team he’s poised to leave high and dry. How do you sell a George-led team to an already-fickle fan base?

Here’s what’s most disappointing: We thought George was about winning, but if he wants to join the Lakers, and again, that’s his right, he’s clearly more interested in glitz and geography than he is winning. The Lakers are a dumpster fire of an organization that has averaged 23 victories per season the last four seasons. Now maybe George has some inside information that James is soon poised to join him in Los Angeles, but failing that, George comes off now like someone who is more about lifestyle and sunshine than he is about winning championships.

The timing, as we said, was brutally bad.

If George had made his intentions clear to the Pacers several weeks or even months ago, they would have had more time to plan for his eventual departure. Instead, they have four days before the NBA Draft to pull a rabbit out of a hat.

If George had at least waited until after July 1, the Pacers could have pursued free agents who might have had an interest in playing with PG. Now that everybody knows he’s a goner, nobody is going to come to Indiana to be part of what will now become a major, top-to-bottom rebuild. At this point, do you pay big money to keep Jeff Teague, who will become a free agent? I’ll answer my own question: No. Blow it up. Start over.

Look, George has every right to call the shots on his career, and it is better that he had his agent talk to the Pacers rather than keep them completely in the dark. That said, George, who comes off now as a giant phony, told the media at Thursday’s celebrity softball game that he wants to see if the Pacers can surround him with better teammates, wants to give general manager Kevin Pritchard time and a chance to build around him. Except it appears he didn’t have any intention to do so – never did.

The guy who said he’s all about winning is now heading toward a life of losing…but at least he can live by the beach, which is pretty sweet.

The guy who said he wants to be like Reggie Miller, the SoCal guy who loved and committed to Indiana, is now doing something Miller wouldn’t ever consider.

This is not a good look for George, who now becomes one of the most detested athletes in local history…not because of the decision he made (it’s his right) but because of the way it was made and the fact it was made so public (which wasn’t an accident) and timing of the decision. At least Durant left his former team, the Thunder, for a true chance to win a championship, or multiple championships. George is going to leave so he can live in Malibu and eat at Nobu and hob-nob with Jack Nicholson.

At this point, the Pacers have only one real choice: Deal him and get what they can, rather than keeping him around and turning him into a focus of fan anger.

He’s taking his talents to La-La Land.

And the Pacers are, well, you know…

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