By Brian Robb, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The potential crown jewel of the 2017 NBA trade deadline is none other than Paul George.
The 6-foot-9 forward is a four-time All-Star and one of the most versatile wings in the Eastern Conference. However, despite strong interest by the Celtics, all reports had pointed to the reality that Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird wasn’t making his franchise star available yet, hoping to build around him instead.
Bird’s philosophy may be starting to shift on that front though, according to a new report from Adrian Wojnarowski of the Vertical. With the Pacers floundering near the .500 mark more than halfway through the season and with the possibility that George could leave in free agency looming at the end of the 2017-18 season, George may have become available.
“The Pacers are working the trade deadline on parallel fronts,” Wojnarowski writes. “Pursuing deals that will bring talent into Indiana to sell George on signing a long-term extension – and soliciting deal offers on George that would signal a rebuild around center Myles Turner, league sources told The Vertical.”
How might this impact the C’s negotiations in the final hours before the trade deadline? The threat of trading for George could provide some additional leverage for them as they handle negotiations with the Chicago Bulls on Jimmy Butler as well. With Chicago’s brass holding out for a package that’s likely to include a Nets first round pick, and a couple of core foundational pieces (such as Jae Crowder), the threat remains the Celtics will take their best offer (or more) to Indiana to try to land George.
It’s too early to tell whether this is mere posturing by the Pacers’ front office or if there are substantive talks taking place, but the threat of those discussions loom large over the Bulls’ decision with Butler. If they want to revisit any deals with Boston after the season ends on their prized shooting guard, they simply might not have the opportunity if the Celtics have moved onto George or another topic.
Ultimately, even if George isn’t traded, the mere possibility of his availability may be a nice assist for Bird toward his former team in the final hours before the deadline. There’s no guarantee a deal will get done for either player, but the odds of the C’s giving up a smaller package for Butler just got a bit better.
Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.