As the NBA’s trade deadline passed Thursday, president of basketball operations Magic Johnson sat in the Lakers team plane, flying to Oklahoma City, where they’ll play Friday.
The deadline expired with Paul George staying put with the Indiana Pacers and the Lakers making a minor move elsewhere. The Lakers did inquire about George, but talks did not go beyond the preliminary stages.
George, a Southern California native, has interest in joining the Lakers, and they have interest in him. But Johnson has made clear he is not interested in trading any of the Lakers’ young talent, a stance would have made a move for George difficult even if the Pacers were inclined to move him.
A more likely scenario for the Lakers to acquire George could come in free agency. George is expected to opt out of the final year of his contract next year, and if he does, he will be a free agent in the summer of 2018. Right now, George would not qualify for the designated player exception, which would allow the Pacers to pay him more than $200 million. If he makes the All-NBA team in the next two years, he would qualify for that exception because he is still playing for the team that drafted him.
It sets up a potentially fascinating 2018 free agency period. DeMarcus Cousins, once a candidate for the designated player exception, is no longer eligible, given that the Sacramento Kings traded him. Players are only eligible if the are still with the team that drafted them, or were traded on their rookie deal.
Though a deal for George failed to transpire, the Lakers made a minor move with the Houston Rockets just before the deadline expired, adding to the trade they agreed upon Tuesday.
The Lakers sent reserve point guard Marcelo Huertas to Houston in exchange for 22-year-old point guard Tyler Ennis. Ennis is in the last year of his deal, under which he is making $1.7 million. Huertas was making $1.5 million this year and has a non-guaranteed year on his deal next year.
The move comes on the heels of the Lakers’ deal with Houston in which they received Corey Brewer and a first-round pick for Lou Williams. Williams is one of the best fourth-quarter scorers in the NBA and thus attractive to other teams, but his age, contract and playing style also made him a player who made sense for the Lakers to move.
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli
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