When the Oklahoma City Thunder traded for Paul George last summer, it didn’t seem to dampen the feeling many had that he would eventually sign with his hometown Los Angeles Lakers once he became an NBA free agent.
Slowly but surely, though, that scenario isn’t seeming like a shoe-in anymore. First there was a report that George “feels like he’s in a good place in Oklahoma City.” Then, Marc Stein of the New York Times reported that “there is a growing belief around the league that Oklahoma City has a far better chance to retain the free agent-to-be Paul George than many believed when the Thunder crashed out of the first round of the playoffs.”
That doesn’t sound great for the Lakers’ chances of nabbing the Palmdale native, and those odds aren’t looking much better after Stephen A. Smith of ESPN reported that George to L.A. is far from a sure thing:
“Folks are not so sure Paul George is coming to L.A. From what I’m being told, Sam Presti and the Oklahoma City Thunder are going to back up the Brinks truck for Paul George. They’re going to offer him the max. Because they’re going to offer him the max, combined with the fact that Russell Westbrook shows him a lot of love and they seem to get along pretty well and they’ve got a future together. Paul George is the sentimental type, and as a result it’s going to be hard for him to pull away from that and the relationship with Russell Westbrook.”
Now, getting past the fact that obviously the Thunder were going to offer George the max or they likely have no shot at keeping him, this is interesting on a few levels. Smith has gotten this stuff right before (as previously pointed out, he nailed LeBron James heading to Miami), and this reporting does reinforce the previous rumors that George leaving the Thunder might not be such a sure thing. That said, “folks” that we have no way of identifying being “not so sure” he’s leaving the Thunder is hardly ironclad proof George won’t don the purple and gold.
The Lakers have appealed to George for a long time, and L.A. obviously isn’t out of the race yet, but amidst all of the Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James rumors, it’s worth noting that the player who seemed to be the Lakers’ key target for the past year seems like far from a guarantee to sign. If the Lakers can’t lure George, it might be that much harder for them to convince other superstars to join on.
Now, the Lakers could buck that traditional thought and still manage to put together the superteam of their dreams without George, but it would be harder without a player like him committing early.
You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.