Paul George has a new home, and Russell Westbrook has a new star teammate.
The Indiana Pacers have agreed to trade George to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis, said two people with knowledge of the details. The stunning deal gives Westbrook, the newly crowned NBA MVP, some serious help next season.
Teams came together on the trade Friday just hours before the free agent market was set to open, said the people who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the trade was not official.
George told the Pacers recently that he planned to leave as a free agent next summer, forcing the team to find a trade before losing him for nothing.
The trade was first reported by ESPN.
George could have been in line for the so-called “Supermax” extension – a five-year pact worth about $205 million – with Indiana this summer, had he been voted onto the All-NBA team this offseason.
He wasn’t, though if he is an All-NBA player next season – which is certainly possible with the numbers he could post playing alongside Westbrook – George would be eligible for a huge payday again. And the irony there is that if he is set on joining the Los Angeles Lakers in 2018, as has been reported for some time, George would miss out on that massive extra windfall.
George is the second Eastern Conference All-Star from this past season to join the already-loaded Western Conference in the last few days. Jimmy Butler was traded by Chicago to Minnesota on draft night.
“Playoffs spots are opening up,” Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid noted on his Twitter account Friday night.
In the East, that certainly seems to be the case.
George broke his left leg in a gruesome scene while playing with USA Basketball in Las Vegas in 2014, which prompted fears he would never be the same. Those fears were most unfounded, since George has better than ever in the last two seasons – averaging 23.1 points and 7.0 rebounds in 2015-16, and following that up with averages of 23.7 points and 6.6 rebounds this past season.
He’s been to the playoffs six times, getting to the East finals twice and losing to Miami each time.
Indiana will be Oladipo’s third team, after starting his career in Orlando and spending last season in Oklahoma City. He’s averaged 15.9 points per game in his four pro seasons, on 43 percent shooting.
Sabonis started 66 games as a rookie last season with the Thunder, averaging 5.9 points.
Griffin staying with Clippers, sources say
Blake Griffin was in line to be one of the most pursued players in free agency.
That is, until he decided to skip free agency.
And his reward for that will be the richest contract in NBA history.
Hours before other teams could officially start trying to woo him away from the Los Angeles Clippers, Griffin agreed to terms on a five-year deal worth approximately $175 million to remain with the Los Angeles Clippers, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal cannot be formally announced until at least July 6.
Griffin’s deal will be worth about $22 million more than the $153 million contract Memphis guard Mike Conley signed last summer. Griffin was planning to meet with other teams this weekend, including Phoenix, but canceled those talks after striking the deal to stay in Los Angeles.
Griffin is still only 28, and the Clippers hope that means he’s just entering his prime. And his agreeing to stay with the Clippers ensures that it won’t be a total reset in L.A. next season. His team will however look decidedly different, after nine-time All-Star Chris Paul decided to leave and wound up getting traded ahead of the free-agency window to the Houston Rockets in a blockbuster deal earlier this week.
Griffin was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 draft, then missed that entire ensuing season with a left knee injury. He was extremely durable over what became his first four seasons, but a variety of other injuries sidelined him for 83 games – a full season plus one game – over the last three years alone. And he was hurt during the Clippers’ first-round playoff matchup against Utah this season.
The Clippers lost that series in seven games.
Griffin has spent his entire career with the Clippers, averaging 21.5 points and 9.4 rebounds on 52 percent shooting.
T-Wolves sending Ricky Rubio to Jazz
The Minnesota Timberwolves reached an agreement with Utah on Friday to send point guard Ricky Rubio to the Jazz to clear salary cap space for a big run in free agency.
The Jazz sent a protected future first-round pick from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Timberwolves in exchange for Rubio, the Spaniard who has struggled with injuries at times over his six years in Minnesota. Utah received the pick when it traded Enes Kanter in a three-team deal in 2015.
The two sides agreed to the move hours before free agency opened. The Jazz needed to make the deal before July 1 or would have lost the salary cap room necessary to pull it off.
They Jazz are looking to bolster the roster with hopes of convincing All-Star free-agent Gordon Hayward to return and build off last season’s playoff run. Utah reached the playoffs for the first time since 2012.
Rubio’s arrival likely means the end of George Hill’s run in Utah, though general manager Dennis Lindsey said Wednesday that Hill remained a top priority. Hill averaged a career-high 16.9 points after being acquired from Indiana last summer. Injuries, however, limited him to 49 games and caused Hill to miss the final three playoff games against Golden State.
The deal means Minnesota can clear as much as $32 million in cap space to make a run at several free agents to pair with Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and the recently acquired Jimmy Butler. Timberwolves targets could include Jeff Teague and J.J. Redick.