Indiana Pacers forward Paul George during the second half of Game 3 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
NBA.com staff reports
The Los Angeles Lakers want Paul George. Paul George wants the Los Angeles Lakers.
But the Indiana Pacers, more than anything else, wanted out from under what could have been that year-long, courtship-from-afar of its best player. So that’s what the Pacers got Friday evening (Saturday, PHL time).
George was to be dealt to the Oklahoma City Thunder, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com and assorted other reports. In return, the Pacers were expected to receive guard Victor Oladipo and forward Domantas Sabonis.
That George, Indiana’s leading scorer and a four-time All-Star, was getting traded was news enough. But with suitors such as Boston and Cleveland hoping to acquire him and perhaps persuade him to stay beyond the 2017-18 season – rather than join the Lakers in free agency next offseason – George’s destination made it doubly stunning.
For what most assume is a one-year rental of George, OKC gave up its second-leading scorer in Oladipo (15.9 ppg) and, in Sabonis, a promising 21-year-old who was the No. 11 pick in the 2016 Draft. But it will be teaming one of the league’s best two-way players with Russell Westbrook, the NBA’s newly minted MVP fresh off his triple-double season (31.6 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 10.4 apg).
The move may demonstrate to both George and Westbrook, who also can become a free agent next summer, that the Thunder (47-35 last season) are seriously about competing in the Western Conference. For the Pacers, landing Oladipo and Sabonis for a player who was determined to leave in 12 months is a decent return. And even as Indiana rebuilds, GM Kevin Pritchard made sure not to send George even temporarily to an Eastern Conference rival.
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