The “Paul George to Los Angeles” bus hit a minor speed bump on Monday as the Oklahoma City Thunder clinched a playoff berth for the third consecutive year. While where exactly they’ll be seeded is still up in the air, the once very real possibility of them missing out on the postseason is no longer possible.
This might seem like a pretty big dent in the Lakers’ plans this offseason, but before punching a ticket to the playoffs on Monday, George reiterated that his decision in free agency won’t be solely based on the Thunder’s playoff success, or lack thereof.
Paul George got some free agency questions today and said he can “see myself being here,” said it’s “not championship or bust,” and stressed a few times about it being his first year with Westbrook and Melo: pic.twitter.com/KSeLrd9xbB— Royce Young (@royceyoung) April 6, 2018
“I could see myself being here,” George said via ESPN’s Royce Young. “I’ve been happy here ... our record isn’t what we want it to be but I think I’ve enjoyed just learning and being around these guys. I’m not going to let playoffs or how we finish the season persuade or indicate where I’m going to go this offseason. I’m going to put everything into this and again, I could see myself being here.”
This is hardly a new stance taken by George. In February, George told USA TODAY Sports’ Sam Amick that he was happy in the Sooner State, but remained noncommittal on whether or not he was going to return, saying his happiness is only one factor in free agency.
“Well, I mean I’m happy here,” George said. “I’m happy here. I’m happy with this group. At the end of the season, it’s still on my decision on what I need to do for my family. That has nothing to do with my happiness here though. I’ve been really happy. It’s a great organization to be a part of, but again, you know, I don’t want people looking at this and (saying) like, ‘Hey, because he said it’s his happiness at the end of the day (that he’s definitely re-signing).
“I don’t know if whether I’m going to LA, or what I’m going to do this offseason. But I can say I am happy about being here. I’m happy with playing with Russ, happy with playing with Melo, and this organization. This front office has shown what they can do to go get pieces and how active they are about winning.”
George and the Thunder will likely finish the season with 48 wins after they play the 22-59 Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday and depending on how the rest of the games shake out from now until then, they could even finish as a high as the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference. But the playoffs will be telling of how competitive the Thunder really are and in doing so, will show George how far away they are from contention.
If the Thunder show they’re still years away from contending, wouldn’t George rather be years away from contending in his hometown as the No. 1 option on a team with the financial flexibility to build a team around him? One would think so, but only time will well.