Paul George has told Pacers officials that he will leave the franchise when he becomes a free agent next summer and the Lakers are his preferred destination, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical.
George hasn’t asked the team for a trade, but said he wanted to be open with management about his plans. He had his agent, Aaron Mintz, break the news to Kevin Pritchard, Indiana’s new president of basketball operations.
George can opt out of his contract for next summer and sign a four-year deal worth $130MM with another organization. There have been rumors for months that George would head to L.A. to try to help his hometown Lakers become contenders again. Signing George would represent a coup for L.A.’s new management team of president Magic Johnson and GM Rob Pelinka as he would be the first significant free agent to join the Lakers in several years.
Wojnarowski notes that pressure is expected to increase on the Pacers to work out a trade with the Lakers to avoid losing George with no return. He mentions Julius Randle as a possibility, along with draft assets. The Lakers own the No. 2 pick in Thursday’s draft, but probably wouldn’t part with it for a player who will soon belong to them anyway.
George’s announcement limits the opportunity to trade him to other teams when they know he will likely leave for the Lakers next July.
League sources tell Wojnarowski that George no longer believes he can win a title in Indiana and sees a better shot in Los Angeles. The Pacers lost a major negotiating advantage when George failed to make an All-NBA team, taking away his eligibility for a five-year, $207MM contract under the Designated Player Veteran Exception.