There’s a growing sense that Paul George, who has spent his entire seven-year NBA career in Indiana, will leave the Pacers for the Lakers this offseason.
Mitch Lawrence believes that would be a mistake – not for George, but for Magic Johnson and the Lakers.
“Paul George isn’t a transcendent star,” the NBA Radio host and Sporting News NBA writer said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “Magic wants to win titles in L.A., right? That’s his whole deal. He needs better players than Paul George. Now I know they’re not easy to come by, but Paul George is not the answer. He can be a bad teammate, a bad leader at times. Yeah, we know he’s super-talented at points, but he rubs a lot of people the wrong way on his own team as you saw in that first-round series against Cleveland when he’s throwing all kinds of people under the bus. So I think Magic can do a lot better than Paul George, but he probably won’t take my advice. He’ll probably wind up getting Paul George.”
George averaged 28.0 points, 8.8 rebounds, 7.3 assists and 1.8 steals in Indiana’s first-round playoff series against Cleveland, but he came up small when it mattered most. The Pacers lost four games by a combined 16 points.
“Look, there’s no doubt when you rank players, he’s probably going to be top 15; some people might even put him top 10,” Lawrence said of George. “But is he a true difference-maker in the postseason? I know he’s had a lot of his seasons ended by LeBron James – and that’s not exactly a crime against humanity because a lot of guys have, especially in the Eastern Conference. But there are too many moments where Paul George just comes up small, where you think, ‘He’s got to do more than he does.’ How many times is he bitching about the officials? How many times is he complaining about teammates? He’s rougher on teammates than he is on himself. To me, that’s a big character flaw. That’s where Magic Johnson needs to avoid him.”
For George, this hasn’t been an in-season development, either. It’s been brewing for several years.
“From talking to people who have been around that team or have been on that team, he’s been thinking about leaving Indianapolis even when they were going to the conference finals a couple of years ago against the Heat,” Lawrence said. “He’s an L.A. guy, he likes Kobe Bryant, he grew up a fan, his father is a Magic Johnson fan – I don’t know how much his heart has been in playing for the Pacers all these years. That’s tough to say, but everybody thinks it’s kind of a done deal, that he’s always wanted to be a Laker more than he’s wanted to be a Pacer. And in terms of his mood swings, to me, it’s just gotten worse. I just look at his body language during games and his comments after games and the fact that he’s highly critical of teammates and he’s always talking about how Indiana is the step-child of the league and we don’t get respect – he always kind of carries himself as a player you can’t build around. He’s too unhappy. He doesn’t uplift teammates. He’d be a handful if Magic got him, I’m telling you. They’d have to import all kinds of strong veteran types who have won titles to keep him on the straight and narrow to show him how to get things done.”