KRAVITZ: Lots of rumors, and then silence: The Pacers stand pat at the trade deadline

Indiana Pacers' Paul George talks with head coach Nate McMillan during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Milwaukee Bucks, Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017, in Indianapolis. Milwaukee defeated Indiana 116-100 (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
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Bob Kravitz

Now it's up to them. Now it's up to the Pacers' coaches and the Pacers' players, and one Pacers player in particular, a guy named Paul George, who needs to start playing and acting like a superstar. Now it's up to them to stop dropping games at home, as they've done far too frequently during this latest six-game losing streak, time for them to take stock in the fact that there's way too much talent here to continue erecting this monument to NBA mediocrity.

If they were looking to be bailed out by their team president, Larry Bird, they walked away from trade-deadline day sorely disappointed. Bird tried to make moves to bolster this team, especially the hole at two-guard and the lack of rebounding, but as we said a few weeks back, it was going to be a difficult trick to turn.

Understand, the Pacers didn't have a lot to offer anybody, not unless they were willing to part with George, Myles Turner or Jeff Teague, and they weren't about to go in that direction. All they had to offer was next year's first-round draft choice, and there just wasn't anybody out there who figured to be worth that expenditure – especially with a strong draft and the possibility the Pacers might miss the playoffs altogether.

All the rumors about the Pacers shopping George? This is what I've heard: That while George's name was being bandied about and was central to every big rumor that surfaced in the last 48 hours before the 3 p.m. Thursday deadline, the Pacers were never seriously shopping him. More accurately, they were casually gauging interest around the league, just to get a sense of what they might get for him down the road – should it come to that.

ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported the following: "ESPN sources say Indy ownership felt compelled to hear out Paul George suitors but that Larry Bird was determined to swat away all pitches."

Honestly, it made no sense to trade George at this point. I'm not convinced, nor are the Pacers fully convinced, that he's got one foot in Los Angeles already. The Pacers will still be able to pay him more money for a longer period of time than any other team – although if George fails to make an all-NBA team this season, that would preclude the Pacers from offering the kind of uber-extension that would make all other offers pale in comparison. And if Bird can add some decent pieces this summer, make the Pacers more of a contender in the East, there's no reason for George to want to jump ship, not after continually claiming that he wants to be this era's Reggie Miller.

Plus, there's this: If George had been dealt, there's no way Jeff Teague would have re-signed at season's end. He's at a point in his career when it's time to start competing for titles, not flailing away in the sixth spot with a chance to go south. He wasn't going to hang around to be part of a two- or three-year rebuild.

Bird, who did not make himself available to the media Thursday, feels today the way he felt when the season began: He wants George to stay for several years, and is ready and willing to step forward with a long-term, max contract extension the moment George expresses interest in signing.

Yes, this was a lousy day for Bird; there's no dancing around that. He needed to make a move. He needed to shake up this franchise, which is treading water and desperately needs to win Friday at home against Memphis before another five-game road trip. Otherwise, we're talking about a double-digit losing streak and the possibility of falling out of playoff contention in the Eastern Conference. This could get far worse before it gets better, and there's no guarantee it will ever get better. After this many games, you are who you are, so it's hard to imagine they'll suddenly catch fire in these final 25 games.

The pressure, though, now turns to George, who asked for help and didn't get any – although Thaddeus Young looks like he'll return to the lineup soon after suffering a hand injury. The pressure is on George to put this franchise on his back, just the way he did during the Toronto series last year, and lead this team in a way he hasn't yet led them this year.

Asked how he felt about Bird's failure to pull the trigger on a deal to help the Pacers, George simply said, "We've got to work with what we've got."

George very much wants to be treated like a superstar; he complained Thursday that he was unhappy he wasn't kept in the loop by management during the days and hours before the trade deadline. Well, start playing like a superstar. Start leading like a superstar.

When asked if he knew what was going on the last few days, George said, "I did, but I didn't. I kind of was on the ropes, just like you guys were. There was a kind of dark moment of uncertainty, so that was the frustrating part. They want me to be the guy here; I thought I'd be in the loop a little more than that."

The question now with George is, where's his head at? I asked him if he was upset or concerned that he was rumored to be heading elsewhere in a trade, and he said he wasn't, that it's all part of the process when a player is approaching free agency. But two things happened that can't make him feel great about staying in Indiana: One, Bird struck out in attempts to improve the team at the deadline. Two, there were all those rumors, both with Boston and Los Angeles and even one with Denver, where it was reported the Nuggets were willing to pay a king's ransom for George's services. Whether they were serious or not makes no difference: George heard them. Heard them clearly.

And then, at 3 p.m., the noise quieted.

This 29-28 team will move forward as presently constituted.

Now the ball's in the coaches' and players' court. "It's up to us now," George said. And he couldn't be more right about that.

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