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Paul George tells Pacers he plans to leave in free agency, likely join Lakers

Paul George tells Pacers he plans to leave in free agency, likely join Lakers

What many expected about Paul George’s future has been confirmed in a new report by Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski. The Pacers superstar not only plans to test free agency when he is eligible to opt out next summer, but ideally join his hometown Los Angeles Lakers. 

George, 27, has even informed the Pacers of his plans. They can either trade him or risk losing him in free agency and that appears to be a real risk at this point. It looks like they have no choice.

George made his fourth All-Star team this past season while averaging 23.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 5. 8 assists per game. He also shot a career-high 46.1 percent from the field. A three-time All-Defensive team selection, George is one of the best two-way players in the NBA.

[RELATED: 5 things to know about Wizards draft prospect Nigel Williams-Goss]

The Pacers did make the playoffs this past season and boast a talented young player in Myles Turner, but their season was largely a disappointment. That said, Indiana still offers George a better opportunity to win than the Lakers do.

The Lakers have some nice young players like Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell, plus whoever they take in Thursday’s draft. They have the second overall pick once again and could select Lonzo Ball or Josh Jackson or another potential star.

That could form a solid core, but the Warriors appear to have a stranglehold on the Western Conference for the foreseeable future. George is 27 years old. He could be competing with a Golden State super team for the rest of his prime.

It seems like staying in the East, whether it’s in Indiana or elsewhere, gives George his best chance to win. George is so versatile, he could fit with many teams. The question is which teams can pull off a trade to acquire him.

Will teams like the Celtics with many assets show interest, or will they be scared off by his plans to join the Lakers? The Wizards could use a third star, but do they have the pieces to pull off such a deal? Few teams probably do.

Regardless, the NBA offseason just got more interesting.

[RELATED: Paul George says right things but does it matter?]

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Bradley Beal passing Wes Unseld on Wizards' scoring list a reminder of his place among franchise greats

Bradley Beal passing Wes Unseld on Wizards' scoring list a reminder of his place among franchise greats

WASHINGTON -- John Wall, Bradley Beal, Wes Unseld. That's how the Wizards' all-time scoring list reads from No.'s three through five after Monday's Wizards win over the Pistons, as Beal moved into sole possession of fourth place with a good chance of passing Wall before the season is over.

Unseld remains the most accomplished player in Wizards/Bullets franchise history as an NBA champion, 1977-78 Finals MVP, 1968-69 league MVP and rookie of the year plus a Hall of Fame induction. But Beal passing him is another reminder he already has a place among Wizards and Bullets luminaries.

"That's an honor because that list is full of greats, true Wizards and Bullets legends. To be a part of that is an honor," Beal said. 

Within the context of Wizards franchise history, Beal has already separated himself as one of the best to ever suit up. In addition to being fourth in points, he is the all-time leader in three-pointers, sixth in assists, seventh in steals and 10th in win shares. He also has the single-season record for threes. That's not bad for a guy who is 26 years old. 

The Wizards/Bullets franchise, of course, doesn't have the same historic success as others like the Celtics and Lakers, but it has been around for 59 seasons. During that time 444 different players have appeared in a game for them.

The franchise goes all the way back to 1962 when they were known as the Chicago Packers. Along the way, there have been more losses (2597) than wins (2142), but many All-Stars and decorated players have come through.

Continuing to make his mark on the Wizards/Bullets franchise seems to be genuinely important to Beal. During his halftime interview with NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller, he mentioned the team's Baltimore days when discussing the Unseld feat. Back when he signed his contract extension in October, he explained the decision partly in terms of creating a legacy in Washington and taking the franchise to places it hasn't been in a long time.

On Monday, he alluded to those goals again.

"I never would have dreamt of that or thought of that coming here. To still be here is an honor, too. I'm just taking it in full stride. I've still got a lot more basketball to play, so who knows where I'll end up," he said.

Beal is well on his way to being widely known as one of the best players in Wizards/Bullets history. If he plays many more years in Washington and doesn't leave on bad terms, he will likely have his jersey retired someday.

But in order to reach the true top tier of Wizards/Bullets greats, he will have to lead them to some playoff success. Getting to the conference finals, where Washington hasn't been since the 1970s, would certainly stand out.

Still, if you were putting together a roster of the best players in Wizards/Bullets history, he would already be included.

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Despite place in standings, Wizards believe playoffs aren't a pipe dream

Despite place in standings, Wizards believe playoffs aren't a pipe dream

WASHINGTON -- This may be the most realistic and self-aware Wizards team we have seen in a while. It wasn't long ago they had a penchant for talking big about what they believed they could accomplish. Nowadays, knowing where they are in the standings, their expectations are much more measured.

They know they are 12th in the Eastern Conference, even after beating the Pistons on Monday. They know their 14-28 record, which is 14 games under .500 and has them on pace to win 27 total games, isn't good.

But the Wizards are allowed to dream and they say making the playoffs is still something they would like to do.

"That's the goal, that's every day for us. [It's] in the back of my mind," shooting guard Bradley Beal said.

"I watch the games, I watch the standings and everything. We're not talking about it," head coach Scott Brooks said. "If that comes into play [we'll see]. The seventh and eighth seeds, the records aren't great."

There is certainly a case for that. The two teams currently occupying the bottom two playoff spots in the East have sub-.500 records. The seventh-ranked Magic are 20-23 and the Brooklyn Nets are in eighth with an 18-24 mark.

Last season, the Charlotte Hornets held up the Eastern Conference playoff bracket with a losing record as the eighth seed. They went 39-43, not good but still a much better pace than the Wizards are currently on. To win 39 games, they would have to go 25-16 the rest of the way.

Though they have shown some positive signs, going 4-4 in their last eight games, that would require going to a completely different level in the second half of the season. Still, there is no harm in maintaining their goals.

Beal, for one, has envisioned a way it can happen.

"Especially once All-Star hits, that second half is just flying. We have to tighten up and try to get some wins here before the break because that's usually the time when teams like to ease off the pedal a little bit. We have to take advantage of [that], that advantage of our schedule, take care of our bodies, and rally together," he said.

If the Wizards really, really wanted to go for the playoffs, they could try to add some pieces before the Feb. 6 trade deadline. But that should not be expected. In fact, this year's deadline for the Wizards likely won't be affected much at all by the playoff picture.

It's hard to envision them being buyers and they may not be able to be true sellers, either, due to injuries and other factors. Also, there is a belief in the front office that keeping a close distance in the playoff race could be a nice incentive for their young players, that having something to work for later in the season could help their development.

If the Wizards did somehow make the playoffs or even get close, that would be quite the surprise and it would say a lot about the direction of the organization. But in the long-term, it would seem to be more beneficial if they continue on their current course and end up with a top draft pick.

The Wizards right now have the fifth-worst record in the league. That would net them a lot of ping-pong balls for the draft lottery.

It seems likely that's where this season will end. But it doesn't hurt to try.

"We just want to play. We just want to finish the second half of the season playing better," Brooks said.

The Wizards are only 4 1/2 games back in the playoff race. Stranger things have happened.

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