NBA: George wooed by all sides as off-season moves begin

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Indiana Pacers forward Paul George is being wooed by several clubs as the NBA prepares for Saturday’s (June 30) start of free agency for the 2017-18 season.

Teams can negotiate terms and deals with available talent starting this weekend but there is a moratorium on signing any contracts until next Thursday.

Clubs have already been juggling room under the NBA salary cap and personnel to try and find room for top talent, or to bring back their own stars.

But George’s case is special. He has vowed to play through next season with Indiana but the four-time All-Star intends to leave when his contract expires next year.

That could, in turn, prompt Indiana to make a trade for him soon in order to ensure they are able to gain something in return even in losing George.

Indiana forward Lance Stephenson posted a forward of himself and George on Instagram on Wednesday night and wrote, “I’m not letting u leave bro stay home bro. We did big things let’s continue.”

George has averaged 18.1 points over parts of seven NBA seasons. The 27-year-old Californian suffered a broken right leg while preparing with the US 2014 world championship squad and missed most of the following campaign.

While George has said he would like to play for the Los Angeles Lakers, other clubs are hoping he might join them first, including, according to several US media reports, the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Cleveland was supposedly looking to work a three-team deal with Denver that would send Kevin Love to the Nuggets and George to the Cavaliers. Love has two seasons remaining on his contract with Cleveland plus a player option for the 2019-20 campaign.

The move could be the Cavs’ next move in a talent buildup with Golden State, the foe they faced in the past three NBA Finals, losing this year after the Warriors added Kevin Durant last July. Durant was the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player and won his first NBA crown earlier this month.

George, who averaged a career-best 23.7 points last season, is also reportedly being eyed by the Lakers, Houston Rockets, Boston Celtics and San Antonio Spurs.

The Rockets made a key move Wednesday by landing point guard Chris Paul in a deal with the Los Angeles Clippers to join All-Star shooting guard James Harden in the Houston backcourt.

The Cavs are expected to contend for Carmelo Anthony if the New York Knicks buy out his contract. Former Knicks president Phil Jackson said he wanted to trade Anthony to a title contender but Jackson and the Knicks split Wednesday.

Also pitching George was Washington Wizards guard John Wall.

“I know his ultimate goal of where he wants to be. I’m trying to see if we can make something happen,” Wall told ESPN. “We are one piece away... (George) is a guy that can guard LeBron and go back at LeBron. It’s a piece that you’re going to need to win. If you don’t have a guy who can do that, you don’t have a chance.” .

CURRY, DURANT FREE AGENTS

Warriors star guard Stephen Curry, the NBA MVP in 2015 and 2016, will become a free agent but is expected to sign a five-year “supermax” extension in July worth an estimated US$205 million. He made just US$12.1 million last season, fourth on Golden State.

Durant plans to wait before re-signing with the reigning NBA champions after deciding last week to decline his US$27.7 million player option for next season to also become a free agent on Saturday.

Ten-year NBA veteran Durant wants the team to deal with other players before he rejoins. Durant is expected to take less than his maximum value in a two-year deal to help Golden State have enough money to keep free agent teammates Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston plus other reserves.

Durant averaged 35.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 5.4 assists in the NBA Finals as the Warriors took the best-of-seven series from Cleveland 4-1.