Shams: Sixers interest in Paul George has ‘significantly waned’

Los Angeles Clippers forward Paul George gestures to the crowd after shooting a 3-point basket during the first half of Game 4 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks, Sunday, April 28, 2024, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

What a whirlwind day for rumors involving the Philadelphia 76ers. After a report that the New Orleans Pelicans contacted the Sixers regarding a potential Brandon Ingram trade to another, stating the Bulls “floated” a trade involving Zach LaVine to Philadelphia, another news drop has arrived less than a week ahead of the 2024 NBA Draft.

According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, Philadelphia is removing themselves from contention to land the nine-time All-Star and will instead pursue other options.

It cannot be said definitively why the world went from Embiid making side eye at George on national television to the Sixers losing interest, but the timing is certainly curious, considering how it coincides with other recent reports.

Not only the rumblings connecting Brandon Ingram and Zach LaVine to Philadelphia (though the Alex Caruso trade may cool those talks) but earlier reports suggesting the Sixers could pursue New York Knicks free agent O.G. Anunoby or Denver Nuggets free agent Kentavious Caldwell-Pope continue to loom.

The Sixers were also connected to Dejounte Murray around the trade deadline, an avenue they could potentially revisit this offseason if all else fails.

One factor that almost certainly has not changed is the idea of LeBron James leaving Los Angeles. After the announcement that former NBA player and LeBron’s podcast partner JJ Redick has been named the next head coach of the Lakers, it’s even more difficult to envision James moving on.

Why are the Sixers cooling on Paul George?

Los Angeles Clippers forward Paul George (13) shoots a 3-point basket during the first half of Game 4 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks, Sunday, April 28, 2024, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

Frankly, there are plenty of reasons for this news to drop, and not all of them are surface-level. While it’s certainly possible that Philadelphia has simply lost interest in signing a 34-year-old player to a likely four-year max-level contract, there also remains the possibility that this is little more than a bargaining tool from either Paul George’s camp or the Sixers.

NBA teams and free agents cannot speak to outside free agents until July 1. With that being said, it’s entirely possible that whatever non-conversations may—but most certainly are not—be happening are simply not satisfactory to one side. Perhaps the Sixers want George to work with them a bit to keep salary flexibility, or perhaps George has not received the impression that the Sixers are willing to give him a four-year max contract. Either way, this news being a bargaining tool remains a possibility.

It also remains possible that the Sixers have learned that their pursuit of Paul George is simply not likely to work out in their favor. In such a case, this information could theoretically be in place to get out ahead of the news.

The why is not certain, but at this point, it may not matter either. What does matter is where the Sixers go from here.

Should Philadelphia truly be pivoting its offseason strategy, the next most likely candidates are the ones who were initially linked with Paul George, who are former Sixer Jimmy Butler and Pelicans wing Brandon Ingram. The Sixers are reportedly willing to extend Butler should they acquire him, which has been the basis of Butler’s trade rumors from the beginning. Meanwhile, as mentioned previously, the Sixers were recently contacted by the Pelicans to discuss a potential deal for Ingram. Perhaps those talks went well.

Finally, players like Mikal Bridges or Lauri Markkanen remain theoretically possible, but based on their rumored price tags and the unwillingness of their current teams to negotiate, they seem far less likely. If Philadelphia does not land a star this offseason, signing multiple players to “balloon contracts” is likely their next course of action.