Larry Bird has decided to step down as team president of the Indiana Pacers. Here’s a look at the impact that will have on Paul George‘s status with the team.
Apparently, Larry Bird just didn’t have enough fight left in him to deal with the problems the Indiana Pacers will soon be facing.
Point guard Jeff Teague is a free agent, and may command a salary that will be tough to swallow for a small market team like Indiana. Swingman C.J. Miles can opt out of the remainder of his deal, and he likely will.
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The Pacers’ attempt to become a fast-paced offensive unit has not gone well, and more than a little roster tweaking appears to be necessary.
However, those issues pale in comparison to the problem facing this franchise — the impending free agency of their star player, Paul George.
George can opt out of his contract and become a free agent after the 2017-18 campaign, and he has made it clear that he wants to play for a contending team.
Indiana has to decide if it is worth the risk to hold onto Paul George and try to re-sign him, or trade him and get something in return before he has a chance to walk away as a free agent.
The probable scenario is that Bird feels Paul George is most likely going to leave via free agency, so he was either going to have to trade him for below market value, or wait and very possibly lose him outright.
The other piece to this puzzle is team owner Herb Simon. Simon has always been (understandably) hesitant to go over the NBA’s luxury tax threshold, but if Paul George becomes eligible for a so-called “super-max” contract, Simon would have a very difficult decision to make regarding George’s status.
If he is named to an All-NBA team, George can receive a six-year contract offer from the Pacers that would pay him approximately $212 million.
It is possible that Bird and Simon have had recent conversations about this, and Simon did not show the willingness to pony up that kind of cash to retain Paul George.
If Bird knows, or even suspects this, it makes sense that he would leave before being forced into a rebuild — something he has always avoided in the past.
Bird’s decision to leave his post as team president would seem to indicate that Indiana has very little chance to re-sign Paul George after next season, and knowing this, Bird thought it best to let someone else deal with the fallout.
Some members of Pacers Nation have suggested that the team would be better off going into full rebuilding mode, rather than being an average team year after year. Given the current conditions, it appears those fans are about to get their wish.
Paul George will be traded this summer, dealt at the 2018 trade deadline, or he will leave as a free agent in the summer of 2018. Larry Bird didn’t want to fight a losing battle, so he left the public relations nightmare and the total rebuild to Kevin Pritchard.
It’s been a long time since the Indiana Pacers were a bottom-rung NBA team, but that may well be on the horizon for this franchise.