The Indiana Pacers put Paul George on the trade market last summer but found the offers underwhelming thanks in part to the belief that he will join the Los Angeles Lakers as a free agent this coming July.
For the Pacers, who ultimately accepted a deal from the Oklahoma City Thunder that included Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis, it was frustrating to see their superstar so undervalued. The Pacers ultimately went to the NBA and complained that the Lakers had tampered with George by speaking to him about joining their team.
That resulted in a record-setting $500,000 fine for Los Angeles due to purported communication between George’s agent and Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka. George, however, believes the fine stemmed from his conversations with Lakers assistant coach Brian Shaw, via Bill Oram of the Southern California New Group:
“I mean, it is what it is. They thought it was tampering, there was no tampering at all. It was kind of crazy, our relationship, mused and B-Shaw was far more stronger than teams, me coming to the Lakers was. B-Shaw’s been a mentor for me so it was kind of comical but we moved on.
“The Pacers thought that there was more in depth of them trying to recruit me, which it wasn’t. The only thing me and B-Shaw ever spoke about was fishing, and challenge each other on fishing trips. B-Shaw has way, way, way better class than to try to recruit me.”
Shaw was an assistant coach with the Pacers from 2011-2013, which allowed to him develop a relationship with George as he was rising to NBA stardom. Players and coaches are going to form friendships and there is little the NBA can do to prevent friends from discussing their careers, but in the role of a Lakers assistant coach, Shaw can’t discuss joining the Lakers with George.
If we take George’s comments at face value, which perhaps we should based on how vehemently he denies that Shaw tried to recruit him, then the Pacers’ initial concerns may have been unfounded.
We will likely never know exactly how much contact the Lakers had with George, but one positive for fans pining to see him in purple and gold next year is just how strong George’s relationship with Shaw is.
Just like playing for a hometown team, these things matter to free agents.
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