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NBA Trade Rumor: Celtics and Pacers far apart on Paul George trade

Call it a smokescreen. Maybe it’s a front-office leak to move things forward. But on the eve of free agency, George-to-the-Celtics talks have stalled.

NBA: Utah Jazz at Indiana Pacers Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s your morning update on the “Paul George-Gordon Hayward, will they or won’t they come to Boston” free agency drama from ESPN’s Zach Lowe:

Dismiss the possibility of Boston signing Hayward, acquiring George, and then somehow signing George to an extension -- regardless of how they order the moves. They just can't open the room to do both without trading Al Horford.

If Boston trades for George, they will do so knowing he could be a rental. That limits the price they are willing to pay. Despite reports to the contrary, Boston has not included any of the following in its offers to the Pacers, per league sources: Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, the 2018 Nets pick, and the Lakers-Kings pick Boston snared from Philly in the Markelle Fultz blockbuster.

Depending on how much you want this deal to happen, this is either good news or bad news. On one hand, if Ainge is unwilling to part with any of Boston’s young assets (for what it’s worth, I’d include Marcus Smart in that group, but Lowe doesn’t), it’s good to see that Danny won’t mortgage the future for a one-year rental on George, the would-be Laker. On the other hand, the Celtics are presumably on the precipice of doing something big, and if you’re in the “go for it” camp, this is a shot that he has to take.

Washington Wizards v Boston Celtics - Game Five Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

With Ainge’s unwillingness to give Indiana a king’s ransom, Lowe also reports that there are other sharks in the water. George’s wishes of eventually leaving for Los Angeles loom large, but there’s also the Wizards and Cavaliers (who have recruited Denver as a third team) who are looking to add George and become the prohibitive favorite in the East. Considering that and how far apart Kevin Pritchard and Danny Ainge seem to be, George-to-the-Celtics sounds like a pipe dream...for now.

Regardless of what happens to the George end of it, there’s still some cap calculus that the Celtics’ front office has to figure out just to be able to offer Hayward a max contract. Yesterday, they extended a qualifying offer to Kelly Olynyk, making him a restricted free agent. They’ll have to rescind that if Sunday’s meet with Hayward goes well and he wants to come to Boston. Lowe reviews some of the nitty gritty of gutting Boston’s depth—trading away Avery Bradley or Smart, stashing players, dumping young players like Jordan Mickey and Terry Rozier—but none of that would be necessary unless the Celtics nail that pitch meeting with Hayward. ESPN’s Marc Stein tweeted out that the Celtics have “ramped up” their efforts to lure Gordon to Boston, but the biggest question is whether or not that includes trading for George.

For those Celtics fans that are hoping that Ainge can assemble this superteam, Lowe does reminds us that George and Hayward want to play with each other, and there isn’t a team in the league more poised to put that duo together than Boston.

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