Revisiting The Paul George Trade

Paul George is back in Indiana tonight for the first time since the blockbuster trade that sent him to Oklahoma City. The deal was supposed to signal the start of a rebuilding process for the Pacers and the creation of a title contender in Oklahoma City, but things haven’t worked out that way. Indiana enters tonight’s game 16-11 and in fifth place in the East, while the Thunder are a disappointing 12-14 and stuck in ninth place in the West.

George was shipped to OKC in early July in exchange for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis, who are both putting up career-best numbers in Indiana. Oladipo is scoring 24.5 points per game, while Sabonis is averaging 12.1 points and 8.5 rebounds, both more than double his totals from last season.

Meeting with reporters today, George expressed joy in seeing the Pacers playing so well and said the reason he had his agent tell the team he was unlikely to re-sign after this season is so it could start preparing right away, according to Matthew VanTryon and Jim Ayello of The Indianapolis Star.

“When we reached out to the front office, to tell them our plans, our future plans, it was to help them along the way,” George said. “And it was bad at first, so to speak, that maybe this trade wasn’t going to pan out. But it obviously did. They got two great, young pieces.” 

We rounded up a few more reactions as writers revisited the July deal:

  • The Pacers should receive an apology for the initial negative reaction to the trade, writes Sean Deveney of The Sporting News. The general feeling was that Indiana didn’t get enough in return for George, with Cavaliers owner Dan Snyder saying, “I will say [the Pacers] could’ve done better,” and the Oklahoma City police department tweeting about the theft of George. Deveney adds that the deal turned out to be better than some other offers the Pacers received, including Gary Harris and draft choices from the Nuggets, and Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley and some non-lottery picks from the Celtics.
  • The Thunder had to take the gamble when a star like George became available, contends Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman. Even if Oladipo turns out to be an All-Star, he wasn’t a good fit with Westbrook during his lone season with the Thunder, Tramel writes, with some observers contending he was out of shape and others saying he couldn’t adjust to Westbrook’s ball dominance. George can be a dominant player on both ends, and his acquisition may have been what inspired Westbrook to agree to a five-year extension in September.
  • The Pacers should be elated with the results of the deal, according to a consensus of writers on an Blogtable. Indiana could be headed for a playoff spot, while George may be joining the Lakers next summer — if not earlier.

Indiana To Host 2021 NBA All-Star Game

3:19pm: The NBA has officially confirmed that the Pacers will host the league’s 2021 All-Star Game.

8:17am: The 2021 NBA All-Star Game will take place in Indiana, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who reports (via Twitter) that the Pacers will host the event. It will be the first time the team has hosted All-Star weekend since 1985.

The Pacers sent out a press release this morning announcing that a press conference will take place this afternoon at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, so the club figures to make the news official at that point. Pacers owner Herb Simon, Indianapolis mayor Joe Hogsett, and NBA commissioner Adam Silver are among those expected to be in attendance for that announcement.

The 2021 All-Star Game update comes on the heels of last month’s confirmation that the Bulls will host the 2020 event. This season’s All-Star Game will take place in Los Angeles, while the Hornets will host 2019’s festivities in Charlotte.

The last time the Pacers hosted the All-Star Game, the team did so at the Hoosier Dome, so 2021 will represent the first time the game has been played at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Suns Sign Isaiah Canaan To NBA Deal

2:59pm: Suns GM Ryan McDonough has confirmed the signing, indicating that Canaan will be in uniform and available to play for the club tonight, per Scott Bordow of The Arizona Republic (Twitter link).

1:04pm: One day after landing with the Suns’ G League affiliate, Isaiah Canaan appears poised to be called up to Phoenix. As Shams Charania of The Vertical reports (via Twitter), the Suns intend to sign Canaan to an NBA contract.

[RELATED: Isaiah Canaan joins Suns’ G League affiliate]

The Suns, who had to waive Derrick Jones last week to accommodate a standard NBA deal for Mike James, won’t have to make a corresponding roster move to add Canaan to their roster. According to Charania, the veteran guard will join the Suns via a hardship exception, which will allow the squad to temporarily add a 16th player to its NBA roster.

A team can be granted a hardship exception when it has at least four players who have missed three or more games, assuming those four players are expected to continue to miss time. In Phoenix’s case, Brandon Knight, Davon Reed, and Alan Williams have been sidelined all season, and Devin Booker missed his third straight game on Tuesday. Booker is expected to miss at least another week or two with a left adductor strain.

Canaan, 26, began his NBA career with the Rockets in 2013/14, and has since bounced around the league, spending time with the Sixers and Bulls before briefly returning to Houston this season. Canaan signed with the Rockets in October after Chris Paul was sidelined with a knee issue, but he was waived just four days later.

A Murray State alum, Canaan has appeared in 186 regular season NBA games, averaging 8.4 PPG in 20.2 minutes per contest. He signed a G League contract this week and was claimed by the Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario, who subsequently traded him to the Northern Arizona Suns. If Phoenix cuts Canaan when Booker returns, Northern Arizona will retain his G League rights.

Terrence Jones To Join Warriors’ G League Team

Former first-round pick Terrence Jones is poised to join the Warriors’ G League affiliate, according to Sam Amick of USA Today. As Amick reports, the Santa Cruz Warriors currently have the top waiver priority, so they intend to snag Jones once the veteran power forward officially signs a G League contract and enters the waiver pool.

The 18th overall pick in the 2012 draft, Jones spent his first four NBA seasons with the Rockets, flashing some potential during his time in Houston before spending last year with the Pelicans and Bucks. Over the course of his five-year NBA career, the former Kentucky Wildcat has posted solid averages of 10.5 PPG and 5.7 RPG in 24.0 minutes per contest (232 games).

Still, the Rockets opted not to re-sign Jones when he was eligible for restricted free agency in 2016, and he was waived by both New Orleans and Milwaukee last season, signaling that his stock had dipped. After failing to find a suitable NBA offer during the 2017 offseason, Jones signed with the Qingdao Eagles, but his stint in the Chinese Basketball Association was short-lived — he was waived by the Eagles last month after being kicked out of a practice.

When he discussed his move to China earlier this year, Jones suggested he was hoping to parlay a strong performance overseas into another NBA opportunity, but that didn’t happen. Now, he’ll look to rebuild his value and earn another shot at the NBA as he prepares to suit up for Santa Cruz.

Bulls Gauging Trade Value Of Mirotic, Lopez

The NBA trade deadline is still almost two months away, but the Bulls have started doing their homework on the market. According to K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune, who cites one team executive from each conference, the Bulls have made “preliminary inquiries” to assess the trade value of veteran bigs Nikola Mirotic and Robin Lopez.

Despite their three-game winning streak, which includes a win over the conference-leading Celtics, the Bulls are still just 6-20, tied for the NBA’s worst record. As such, the club is expected to be a seller at the February 8 trade deadline, making Mirotic and Lopez logical trade candidates.

Lopez and Mirotic are the Bulls’ highest-paid players, though neither contract is onerous. Lopez is earning $13.79MM this season and has one more guaranteed year worth $14.36MM. Mirotic has a $12.5MM cap hit for this season and a $12.5MM team option for 2018/19, meaning Chicago could lose him for nothing in unrestricted free agency in July.

Of course, while Lopez’s contract situation and age (29) are enough to make him a trade candidate, there are a few other factors at play in Mirotic’s case. The 26-year-old missed the start of the 2017/18 season after suffering a concussion and facial fractures as a result of a Bobby Portis punch, and while the two power forwards appear to be coexisting now, Mirotic reportedly wouldn’t mind being moved.

With nearly 100 players set to become trade-eligible later this week, trade discussions around the NBA may start to heat up soon. However, most teams won’t finalize any deals until closer to the deadline. If the Bulls decide to move Mirotic, they’ll have no choice but to wait — his trade restrictions don’t lift until January 15.

Kawhi Leonard Set To Return For Spurs

DECEMBER 12, 11:56am: Leonard will play on Tuesday night, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich confirmed today (Twitter link via Michael C. Wright of ESPN). The star forward will be on a minutes restriction.

DECEMBER 8, 2:29pm: Leonard is now targeting Tuesday’s game in Dallas for his return, league sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski and Michael Wright of ESPN (Twitter link). The Spurs don’t play on Sunday or Monday, so delaying his debut until next week would give Leonard a few extra recovery days without missing multiple games.

DECEMBER 7, 2:43pm: The Spurs could welcome Kawhi Leonard back to the lineup as soon as this Saturday, Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News writes. The forward has been held out of action with a quad injury since late September.

While Leonard seems optimistic about his imminent return, the team will have a better idea of his status after they re-evaluate him on Friday. Leonard, Young writes, participated in a final workout session with the team today.

Leonard has missed all 25 games for the Spurs this season while recovering from right quadriceps tendinopathy but has slowly ramped up his activity in practice over the last few weeks.

Just last season, the 26-year-old took his game to a new level, averaging 25.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game while guiding the Spurs to the Western Conference Finals. The well-rested 2016-17 MVP finalist will look to pick up exactly where he left off.

He looked great [in practice],” Tony Parker, who just returned from his own quad injury, told reporters. “I almost forgot he was that good.

Soon enough we’ll all remember.

John Wall Likely To Return On Wednesday

Despite being upgraded to questionable for Tuesday’s game in Brooklyn, point guard John Wall appears more likely to return to action for the Wizards on Wednesday night, a source tells TNT’s David Aldridge (Twitter link). Aldridge suggests that “all signs point” to the Wizards getting Wall back in their lineup in D.C. on Wednesday against the Grizzlies.

Wall, who last played for the Wizards on November 22, received platelet-rich plasma and viscosupplementation injections in his left knee last month, with the team estimating at the time that he’d take about two weeks to recover. Candace Buckner of The Washington Post indicated last Friday that Wall would need a few more days to get healthy, writing that he was on track to return in the middle of this week.

The Wizards have held their own without the former first overall pick, going 4-4 in his absence. Still, the team has underperformed a little this season, and will be looking to make a run to close out the year with Wall set to return to action. Washington has a 14-12 overall record, which is tied for sixth in the Eastern Conference.

Wall has averaged 20.3 PPG and 9.2 APG in 16 games so far in 2017/18.

Cody Zeller To Undergo Surgery, Miss Six Weeks

Hornets center Cody Zeller will undergo surgery to repair torn meniscus in his left knee on Tuesday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets, citing league sources. Zeller is expected to miss six weeks, Wojnarowski adds.

Zeller injured the knee last week against the Warriors. Zeller was relegated a second-unit role this season with the addition of Dwight Howard but had been productive, averaging 7.2 PPG and 5.5 RPG. In his absence, Frank Kaminsky and Johnny O’Bryant will likely share minutes behind Howard. Kaminsky has missed two games with an ankle sprain but is expected to play Monday.

Zeller, 25, has long-term security but it remains to be seen whether the knee injury will have a lingering effect. He’s making $12.6MM this season and his contract runs through the 2020/21 season.

If the Hornets want to add a big man, they could sign a free agent to a pro-rated, non-guaranteed minimum deal and remain below the luxury tax line, ESPN’s Bobby Marks tweets. The Hornets have a roster spot open and are $1.8MM below the tax line, Marks notes.

Matt Barnes To Retire

Veteran NBA forward Matt Barnes appears set to call it a career. While it’s not quite an official announcement, Barnes published an Instagram post today in which he reminisced about his “cool 15-year run” in the NBA and indicated that he’s ready to move on to the next chapter in his life.

You telling me I can dress like this for business meetings & make more money off the court than I made ON??” Barnes wrote. “And spend more time with my kids??!!”

Barnes, 37, entered the NBA as a second-round pick in 2002. After failing to earn a roster spot in his first professional season, Barnes joined the Clippers in 2003/04, then bounced to the Kings, Knicks, and Sixers over the next few years before breaking out for the Warriors in 2006/07.

Barnes’ time in the NBA, which also included stints with the Suns, Magic, Lakers, and Grizzlies, amounted to 929 regular season games, plus another 95 postseason contests. After averaging 8.2 PPG and 4.6 RPG over the course of his career, Barnes went out on top in 2017 — he joined the Warriors down the stretch and earned the first NBA championship of his career this past spring. Assuming Barnes doesn’t come out of retirement at some point, a cameo in Game 2 of this year’s Finals will go down as his last NBA appearance.

Although it’s not clear what the next stage of Barnes’ life holds, today’s Instagram post – which references “business meetings” and includes the hashtag #BillionaireBy50 – suggests that he’ll focus on business interests rather than looking to become an NBA coach, executive, or analyst.

Magic Johnson: Lakers Could Preserve Cap Room For 2019

Having spent the 2017 offseason clearing long-term salary from their books and signing new players to one-year deals, the Lakers haven’t hid the fact that they’re looking to make a huge splash in free agency in 2018. However, during an appearance on Spectrum Sportsnet’s “Connected With” series, president of basketball operations Magic Johnson suggested that the Lakers could save a portion of their cap room for 2019 if the club is unable to land two stars in 2018, per Harrison Faigen of Lakers Nation.

“We have cap space for probably two max guys, but that’s not to say we’ll use both of them,” Johnson said. “We want to if we can, but we have a Plan A and we have Plan B. Say we only get one of those guys, then we’ll make a decision on not to use the cap space. We can do that and save it for the class that’s coming the next year. We’re not going to give money away just because we have the cap space. I’m not about that.”

Although the Lakers have set themselves up to create a huge chunk of cap room for 2018, the team still has nearly $50MM in guaranteed salary on its books for next season, so additional moves would be required to clear enough room for two maximum-salary players. Waiving Luol Deng and trading Jordan Clarkson would likely do the trick for the Lakers, but if the team recognizes that it won’t be able to land two stars in free agency, it might make sense to hang onto Deng and Clarkson a little longer, potentially jettisoning them down the road.

Having been fined earlier this year for tampering with Paul George and the Pacers, Johnson won’t make the mistake of again discussing specific targets for the summer of 2018, but he pointed to the Celtics’ acquisition of Kyrie Irving as an example of a star player helping to take a young team to another level. That’s the sort of player Johnson and the Lakers will be targeting in free agency, with George, LeBron James, and DeMarcus Cousins among the stars likely to be on the club’s shopping list.

If the Lakers can’t land a player or two of that caliber, it would be smart to maintain flexibility for the summer of 2019. As Faigen notes in his piece at Lakers Nation, contracts like Deng’s and Timofey Mozgov‘s were the result of the 2016 Lakers using up all their cap room on non-stars, so that’s not a mistake the club’s new management group wants to repeat.

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