National Basketball Association
Paul George details 76ers decision. Are they now the Celtics' top threat?
National Basketball Association

Paul George details 76ers decision. Are they now the Celtics' top threat?

Published Jul. 8, 2024 3:47 p.m. ET

Paul George officially signed a four-year deal with the Philadelphia 76ers last weekend, but that wasn't the original plan.

The star wing said that he "was not trying to leave" the LA Clippers in free agency but felt compelled to after receiving the Clippers' first offer — a two-year, $60 million deal — which he felt to be "disrespectful."

"(The Clippers said), 'We want you and Kawhi [Leonard] here long term. We want y'all to be here.' All of this stuff," George said during the most recent episode of his podcast. "Mind you, this was before the season started … maybe October-ish when negotiations first started. As we kept going, it was like they would go up inches, inches, inches to where it was like $44, $45 (million per year). … This was a couple (of) months in between before we got it to 40 (million) something. So I'm still like, nah, I'm not doing that."

George said there was a curveball thrown in his extension negotiations when Leonard signed his new contract in January, which was a three-year, $153 million deal. The deal was less than the full max Leonard could've received and didn't include a player option, signaling the star forward made some concessions with the franchise in the contract.


When George caught wind of Leonard's deal, he said that he'd take a similar deal in the middle of the season, but the Clippers weren't willing to offer him such. George said that the team upped its offer to a three-year, $150 million deal, which was essentially the contract Leonard got, after the season ended. 

However, he claimed that the Clippers wouldn't give him a no-trade clause. George said he sought out a no-trade clause so he could dictate his future, so he upped his asking price.

"They didn't want to do that, so then I'm like, ‘All right, well then it only makes sense for me to do four years, $212 [million],’" George said. "At least pay me my money. If y'all [are] going to trade me, y'all [are] going to trade me, but at least now I'm not in a situation where I could have got more had I just gone [to] free agency. … They didn't want to do that, so now I was like, 'I'm open to entertaining what's out there.' 

I thought I played well enough for them (the Clippers) to be like, 'You know what? He's a part of our future.' I thought I did that. I thought I earned that."

Why a Big 3 with Paul George is not enough for the 76ers

With the Clippers not willing to meet George's new asking price, he hit free agency. When it became a bit more clear that he wasn't returning to LA, George had his eyes on the Golden State Warriors. However, the Warriors could've only acquired him through a trade, but the Clippers didn't like what was being offered.

"It was close," George said of a trade that would've sent him to Golden State. "It would've been dope, man. I was looking forward to it if it happened."

Eventually, the Sixers swooped in and offered George a four-year, $212 million contract that he accepted just hours into the start of free agency. While George didn't get to join the Warriors, he said signing with the Sixers was a "win-win" because Joel Embiid is a "unicorn" of a player.

Embiid also feels great about the move, telling ESPN that the star trio of Tyrese Maxey, George and himself are an "amazing" fit because of George's scoring (22.6 points per game) and shooting (.471/.413/.907 splits) abilities last season.

Of course, the big question is whether it's enough for the Sixers to get over the hump and take down the reigning champion Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference. Keyshawn Johnson said the Sixers are about a seven on a scale of one to 10 for being the biggest threat to the Celtics in the East, but he believes they still have some work to do.

"It now gives you that extra guy who can get you 20, 25 at any point in time," Johnson said of George on Monday's "Undisputed." "If you miss Embiid for a period of time, can Paul George — along with Maxey — have the ability to get you to the Eastern Conference finals to see the Celtics? I believe so. They're better than the [New York] Knicks.

"You can't just say, 'It's the dream team!' The Celtics are ridiculous when you look at their top guys."

Rachel Nichols agreed with that sentiment, though she believes George joining Philadelphia is a seamless acquisition.

"Make no mistake, Paul George going to the Sixers is such a perfect fit," Nichols said. "He does the thing nobody else there does. He allows Joel Embiid to now be even more of a force on both ends of the floor. It's going to take some of the burden off Tyrese Maxey, who's only turning 24 years old and still needs to have someone out there who's a veteran presence. … Maybe he's not the best defender in the league anymore, but he can absolutely defend at a top, top level. 

"It is going to be beautiful to watch those guys play basketball together if they stay healthy."

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