The Pacers have to be a little nervous about Paul George and his future with the franchise. George is signed through 2018, but a year from July 1st next year he's a free agent, and that means the clock has already started. George has made it clear he likes Indiana and wants to build a winner there. But eventually the lure of a bigger market or a better winning opportunity (like Kevin Durant saw this summer) could prove tempting for George.
Larry Bird spoke with the Indianapolis Star before the season begins and he made it clear: if Paul George wants a max extension, George gets a max extension.
"I know he don't want to talk about it all year and I don't either," Bird said. "We want Paul here and we know what it's going to cost and what it's going to take. If Paul wants to get a deal done, we will. It's a max deal. There's no others, so there's no use talking about it. If he wants it, he's got it."
I could fill you in on the complex mechanics of why George is unlikely to take such an offer, but it boils down to the fact that he can get more money over more years if he stays with the Pacers and opts out in 2018. Now, that doesn't mean he won't take the extension. For example, James Harden just took such a deal with the Rockets. If George wants to put to rest any talk of his free agency and the drama it will inevitably create, he can go that route. But both financially and from the perspective of maximizing his career opportunities, free agency is the best possible option.
However, if he wants to stay in Indiana, the Pacers aren't going to mess around with it. They understand and value how good and important George is to the franchise, and are more than willing to give him max money should he want it. For now, the looming Paul George free agency of 2018 stands as a potentially league-altering event in 2018. The Pacers have between now and then to put that drama to rest.