Photo: Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Paul George has told the Indiana Pacers that he will leave the franchise via free agency after the 2017-18 season, according to this Sunday report from Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

George hasn’t requested a trade before he can opt out of his 2018-19 contract, but did have his agent, Aaron Mintz, tell new Indiana president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard that he wanted to be forthright on his plans and spare the franchise any confusion about his intentions, league sources told The Vertical.

This report would seem to follow naturally on the heels of George being denied All-NBA recognition following the 2016-17 season, and therefore precluding Indiana from offering him the $200 million Designated Player Extension. The current CBA makes that contract only available to George under a narrow set of circumstances, and only from the Pacers. Failing that, the Pacers are stripped of their strongest leverage for keeping George in Indiana, especially given years of rumors that he’d prefer to spend the next part of his career playing for the Lakers. Without the DPE, the best the Pacers can offer George is a five-year deal worth approximately $180 million, much closer to what he can get in competing offers (in the range of $130 million).

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The favor George is doing for Indiana here is a bitter one: they can proceed from here disencumbered of any false hope that their best and most valuable player will factor into their long-term plans, but with the crippling disadvantage that now the whole rest of the NBA knows they’re under the gun to move him before the end of next season, or receive nothing in return for his departure. If you thought the Kings were in a sorry bargaining position trying to offload DeMarcus Cousins, say a prayer for the poor Pacers, who have to move a star with fewer years left on his contract, who cannot receive the DPE, who has stated his intention to move on in free agency, and who has reportedly stated a preference for his next landing spot—one of the few teams in the NBA that can afford to wait around for their next big free agency catch. This has all the trappings of a bloodbath.

Ouch.