NBA free agency 2024 live updates: Paul George to join 76ers to pair with Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey; latest news, trades and rumors

Paul George’s Clippers tenure has come to an end.

As free-agency exits go, it doesn’t get much more respectful and insightful than the statement issued by the team mere minutes after news broke of their failed negotiations. In short, the Clippers desperately wanted to be able to continue building the roster even after retaining the likes of Kawhi Leonard, James Harden and — they’d hoped — Paul George.

But that required sacrifice on George’s part, and the 34-year-old, nine-time All-Star is widely known to be pursuing the kind of four-year, max-salary deal that would have come with serious luxury tax implications for the Clippers because of the league’s second-apron luxury tax rules. In the wake of the Clippers’ announcement, Philadelphia is now seen as the front-runner to land him. The Clippers are known to be in the running for Klay Thompson, so that option becomes more real now that George’s situation is resolved from their end.

Here’s the Clippers’ statement in full:

“Paul has informed us that he is signing his next contract with another team. Paul is a tremendous talent and an elite two- way player. We feel fortunate for the five years we spent with him. Over that span, he went to three All Star Games, made the most 3-pointers in franchise history and helped lead the team to a place it had never been. His performances in Games 5 and 6 against Utah in 2021 won’t be forgotten by anyone associated with the Clippers. We traded a lot to pair Paul and Kawhi, and in exchange, we had five seasons of contention. Even though we fell short of our ultimate objective, we appreciate the chances we had with Paul. Heading into this offseason, our roster was constructed (of) three great players 33 and over, two of whom could become free agents. We wanted to retain them on contracts that would allow us, under the constraints of the new CBA, to continue building the team. We negotiated for months with Paul and his representative on a contract that would make sense for both sides, and we were left far apart. The gap was significant. We understand and respect Paul’s decision to look elsewhere for his next contract. We explored an opt-in and trade scenario, but it would have left us in a similar position under the new CBA, with very little asset value to justify the restrictions. We will miss Paul. At the same time, we’re excited by the opportunities we’ve now been afforded, including greater flexibility under the new CBA. Kawhi is an all-NBA player and we believe T Lue is the best coach in the league. We will field a highly competitive team this season, and moving forward, use our organizational advantages to bring top talent to Intuit Dome.”

If Philadelphia can close this deal with George, meanwhile, it will mark a massive win for a franchise that so desperately needs to surround former MVP Joel Embiid with more elite talent, especially considering the Sixers don’t appear to have a Plan B that is anywhere near as impactful as the prospect of adding George. An Embiid/Tyrese Maxey/George star trio would be as formidable as it gets in the Association, to be sure.

There’s more to come on this front…

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