Indiana Pacer Paul George says he will stay with Indiana under his continuing contract with the Pacers for the 2017-18 season, despite rumors of being traded in the 2017 NBA draft to teams such as the Cleveland Cavaliers. (June 15, 2017)
INDIANAPOLIS — Paul George sat at the top of the first-base dugout in Victory Field. He waited for a throng of reporters to surround him. George, after two months of speculation about his future, knew the type of questions he would be asked Thursday night.
George answered each question. He never wavered. His message, since he joined the Indiana Pacers seven years ago, remained the same: He wants to be a champion in the Pacers’ blue and gold.
Then, to strengthen his words, George stated facts:
“I’m under contract as a Pacer,” he said. “That’s all that needs to really be known. I’m here. I’m a Pacer. Again, what I’ve been dealing with is stories. You guys talking or teams talking. I’m a Pacer. There’s no way around that. This is my team, my group and this is where I’m at.”
George, the Pacers’ star player and lone All-Star from last season, did his best to defuse the rumors surrounding him — about being traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, his hometown team or about him joining his rival LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“I don’t talk to LeBron at all,” George said. “We don’t communicate. I look up to LeBron, obviously. He’s been a tremendous ambassador to this game. He’s been a very huge influencer for me outside of the game, but we don’t communicate and figure out where one another’s going.”
George, who has one year left on his contract, said he intends to play out his deal with the Pacers. George can opt out of his contract after next season, which he is expected to do. He hopes the Pacers, led by new team president Kevin Pritchard, can construct a roster to contend in the Eastern Conference.
In April, George declined to answer questions about his future after the Pacers, who underachieved and were swept out of the playoffs by James and the Cavaliers. Thursday served as the first time that George made public commits about his future.
“Again, what I’ve always been preaching, more so than you see now, is having guys I can win with,” George said. “Wanting to win, it came from the heart and it’s very sincere on wanting to bring that to Indiana. That’s where my heart is going to always be at.”
A few minutes later, George reiterated his ultimate goal.
“It’s all about bringing a championship to Indiana,” he said.
MORE PAUL GEORGE
• He laughs at ‘mean tweet’ mentioning trade
• Kevin Pritchard takes the reins of the Pacers
George, after training in Los Angeles the past few weeks, returned to Indianapolis for the ninth annual celebrity softball game he hosted alongside Robert Mathis, the retired Indianapolis Colts linebacker.
George’s participation in the game helped bring awareness for Indiana Children’s Wish Fund. The proceeds from the game will help the fund grant wishes to Indiana children ages 3 to 18 who suffer from life-threatening illnesses. The event is held in the memory of Caroline Symmes, who was involved in the inaugural softball game before dying in 2009.
George was joined by Pacers coach Nate McMillan and teammates Myles Turner, Joe Young and Georges Niang.
Turner, in a radio interview with hosts Jake Query and Derek Schultz, said he believes George will not be traded.