Although the Pacers engaged in Paul George trade talks prior to last month’s deadline with at least the Celtics, Hawks, Sixers, and Nuggets, the team never seemed serious about moving him, league sources tell ESPN’s Zach Lowe. The club’s desire to keep George in Indiana is a key theme in Lowe’s deep dive on the Pacers, with team president Larry Bird expressing a willingness to spend all he can to build a competitive roster around his star forward.
“I have a budget,” Bird said. “Whatever that budget is, I’ll spend it. Sometimes, we can’t go after max guys, or players we really think could help us, because of our budget.
“Paul wants to compete for a title,” Bird added. “We want Paul here. He has expressed that he wants to be here. That could change overnight. You never know. But whatever I can spend, I’m going to spend.”
Here’s more from Lowe on the Pacers:
- Prior to the trade deadline, the Pacers explored the possibility of trading veteran guard Rodney Stuckey for a backup rim protector. According to Lowe, John Henson of the Bucks was one player Indiana was eyeing in such a deal.
- A February report indicated that the Pacers had made their 2017 first-round pick available in trade discussions as they looked to fortify their roster around George. That pick ultimately didn’t change hands, but it will be on the block again in June, Bird confirms.
- Sources tell Lowe that George would “love” to play with Gordon Hayward, who will likely become an unrestricted free agent this summer. However, as Lowe notes, the odds of Hayward signing with the Pacers probably aren’t great.
- Here’s what George told Lowe about this year’s Pacers team: “This season has been a reality check. You think you are gonna be in those playoff battles, playing alongside those guys forever. You have to try and recapture that moment. And that moment for us was having a strong chemistry and identity. We don’t have one now. I’ve never been on a team without an identity — without a toughness identity.”
- According to Lowe, GM Kevin Pritchard – Bird’s “top deputy” – is currently on a contract that will expire at season’s end. The Pacers will have to lock up Pritchard to a new deal soon or risk losing him to another club.
- Whatever route Indiana takes this summer, a full-scale rebuild likely isn’t on the table. Lowe points out that the Pacers haven’t won fewer than 32 games or drafted higher than 10th in nearly three decades, with Bird saying of tanking, “We can’t do that around here.”