Will Lakers appeal to Paul George?
LAS VEGAS – Indiana Pacers guard Paul George is spending the week here training at USA Basketball's minicamp. And every time he runs into a Los Angeles Lakers fan in Sin City, they've had the same message for him:
" 'Paul, are you coming to L.A.? Let's get you in L.A.' That's all I've been hearing since I've been out here," George told Yahoo! Sports after Monday's practice at USA Basketball minicamp.
Paul will enter the final year of his $3.2 million rookie contract with the Pacers next season. The All-Star had a breakthrough year last season averaging career-highs of 17.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.1 assists. He averaged 19.2 points in the postseason while leading Indiana within one victory of the NBA Finals.
George grew up primarily a Los Angeles Clippers fan in his hometown of Palmdale, Calif., which is about an hour-and-15-minute drive from the Staples Center. But he was also a major fan of Kobe Bryant and has worn Bryant's No. 24 at Palmdale High, Fresno State and with the Pacers. The Lakers will have money to try to pair George with Bryant in the summer of 2014. Or, if Bryant signs elsewhere or retires, the Lakers could try to make George their next star,
George said the speculation about his future is only going to heat up.
"Everywhere I go [in L.A.] they say, 'We want you here. Don't sign with the Pacers,' " George said. "I hear that constantly. It's getting a little repetitive … but I'm getting used to it.
"I understand it. I can't really be mad about it. It's a great feeling when people in the stands really want you."
Of course, Pacers fans might not have too much reason to worry about the Lakers trying to lure away George. Indiana has until Oct. 31 to sign George to a long-term extension, and Pacers president Larry Bird recently told 1070 The Fan in Indianapolis the team plans to make George a "major" offer. If George doesn't sign an extension this summer, he will become a restricted free agent after the season. Even then, the Pacers will have the right to match any offer he receives.
Indiana can't offer near the same luxuries off the court that Los Angeles does. Still, George is excited about the future of the Pacers, including the recent re-signing of forward David West.
George also is happy that Bird and Pacers general manager Kevin Pritchard are at USA Basketball's minicamp to support him. The Lakers, meanwhile, are transitioning after Dwight Howard departed in free agency for the Houston Rockets.
"I'm happy to be in Indiana," George said. "I'm happy to be where I am. If I was going to leave Indiana and come to the Lakers, it just wouldn't be a smart move for me. We got a great thing going right now."
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