Paul George believes he deserves to be on the All-NBA team after his strong play down the stretch this season, an accolade that would enable him to sign a designated veteran player extension worth more than $200 million with the Indiana Pacers this offseason.
George stressed his primary focus is to find a way to guide the Pacers into the playoffs. After losing to the Cavaliers 135-130 in double overtime Sunday, the Pacers have lost six of seven games and fallen out of playoff position.
George had 43 points, nine rebounds, nine assists and three steals in the loss, a signature performance in a fierce duel with LeBron James, who scored 41 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists.
"For contract reasons (All-NBA) is important. But I'm not thinking about contracts," George said. "If my performance down the stretch lands me on the All-NBA, which I think I'm deserving of, then so be it. I'll be happy."
In March, George averaged 26.8 points, 7.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists while shooting 49 percent. His first game of April was one of the finest games of his career. But the Pacers have lost playoff position, which is often a key factor in All-NBA voting.
"It's on me, man. You've got a guy like Russ (Westbrook) who's making everything I do not enough," George said. "He's putting on performances and he's winning games. So I can't say nothing. If a guy like Russ can win games and play at the level he's playing at, regardless of how I'm playing, it's not enough."
Over the last two seasons, only one player has made All-NBA who didn't make the playoffs: DeMarcus Cousins. George is in contention with players such as James, Kawhi Leonard, Draymond Green, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Anthony Davis for one of the forward spots on the third team. It isn't clear how voters will judge Kevin Durant, who missed a significant portion of the season with injury.
George has made All-NBA three times, including last season. But if he doesn't make it this season, he would not be eligible for the so-called designated veteran extension that will be a part of the new collective bargaining agreement that starts July 1.
The Pacers are hoping to sign him to an extension this summer and avoid the stress of his possible free agency in 2018. However, if George doesn't qualify for the designated player rules, he'd have little financial incentive to commit this summer.
"I'm worried about making the playoffs," George said. "I'm going to play at the highest I can, the best I can every night. Wherever that lands me, that's where it lands me. I'm fighting for a playoff spot."