Source : NBA on Yahoo Sports
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Now that Paul George has a new contract, the Indiana Pacers can focus on more pressing matters.
Training camp starts Saturday. The regular season opens in a little more than a month. The playoffs come in April, and that's when the real challenge begins.
''We're all in this year,'' Larry Bird said.
They proved it Wednesday by officially singing George to a five-year max contract extension that guarantees him between $80 and $90 million and could be worth even more if George reaches an escalator clause.
George's deal comes after David West's new three-year, $36 million contract, Bird's offseason spending spree to improve the bench and last year's expensive deals to keep center Roy Hibbert and point guard George Hill. The Pacers are almost certain to have their core nucleus together for several more years.
And with the Pacers coming off back-to-back playoff runs in which they pushed Miami, the expectations are soaring.
''It's exciting,'' coach Frank Vogel said. ''Since I took over here, we've been talking about having a similar era to what the Colts had the last seven or eight years, where they had a chance to win it all basically every year. We're a couple of years into this thing, and to have this guy under contract for five more years gives us that type of confidence, that we can win a championship, our first (NBA) championship.''
Bird gambled by paying the 23-year-old, 6-foot-7 forward before his rookie contract expired at the end of the season. If it had, he could have become a restricted free agent.
George appears to have everything it takes to become the face of Indiana's franchise. He has improved dramatically in each of his first three years. Last season, he was an All-Star, earned third-team All-NBA and second-team all-defense honors, and won the league's Most Improved Player Award.
SHAQ BUYS INTO SACRAMENTO KINGS
SACRAMENTO (AFP) - Shaquille O'Neal, a four-time NBA champion who retired in 2011, has become a part owner of the Sacramento Kings, a rival club he derisively dubbed the "Queens" back in 2002.
Indian businessman Vivek Ranadive, a software company founder who became the owner of the NBA Kings in May for a record $534 million (395.5 million euros) after the team appeared set to move to Seattle, confirmed the move on a Twitter posting.
"Join me in welcoming @SHAQ to the @SacramentoKings! Only one way to go from here!" Ranadive tweeted.
O'Neal's minority stake in the club gives the former Los Angeles Lakers superstar 7-foot-1 (2.16m) center a new nickname to go alongside dozens of others such as "The Big Aristotle" and "The Big Shaqtus" he coined in his career -- "The Big Owner".
O'Neal has been talking with DeMarcus Cousins, the young Kings big man, in the past few months after finishing his season stint as an NBA television commentator.
Having been a thorn in the side of the Kings during championship playoff runs by the Lakers in 2000-2002, O'Neal told USA Today the Kings can only get better after going 28-54 last season, in part because of a deal with the California capital for a new arena.
"Once that new arena comes, once that new downtown is up, once we have a conversation with the players and get everybody to step up, they'll be knocking on the door," O'Neal said.
"Hopefully Vivek, with (fellow part-owner Mark) Mastrov and myself and the team and organization can get it back to where it used to be. I'm telling you these new plans, you are going to be like, 'Sacramento is doing what?' That's what we want people to say.
"What interested me in this deal is the new vision, the new Kings, the new everything. I've always wanted to be part of something like this. ... It's going to be great."
The move comes after ESPN ranked the Kings the worst of 122 combined teams in the National Football League, Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League and NBA, based upon the team's mediocre attendance and seven consecutive seasons of having missed the playoffs.
"Hey ESPN, Nice Airball" reads the opening message on the Kings' website."