The rumblings that Paul George might actually re-sign with the Oklahoma City Thunder continue to get louder. Even with continued optimism throughout Los Angeles that LeBron James might opt to sign with the Lakers, a decision that was once seen as a given is turning into quite the dilemma.
Is this all a smokescreen, or is George legitimately torn — if not leaning towards staying in Oklahoma City altogether? This latest report, via Sam Amick of USA Today, doesn’t lend much to optimism for Lakers fans (emphasis mine):
Even with the Thunder coming just two losses away from missing the playoffs, and then falling to Utah in six games during their first-round matchup, there is all sorts of optimism in Oklahoma City that George will re-sign. Conversely, there’s pessimism in (LeBron) James’ camp that George would leave Oklahoma City. George has raved about the Thunder since the beginning, making it clear to USA TODAY Sports in September that the organization had earned his confidence from the start.
He continues with more on George’s potential reasoning:
Veteran guard Andre Roberson, whose season-ending patellar tendon injury in late January derailed the Thunder’s defense, remains on track to be ready for training camp in October. According to the New York Times, Carmelo Anthony will still be a part of the program as well. But if George does indeed stay, that would be widely considered a big blow to the Lakers’ chances of landing James.
Maybe George was swayed on what OKC has to offer. Perhaps he does really think Andre Roberson was they key to lifting that team’s ceiling higher even than what the Lakers would be capable of with him and LeBron (and potentially another superstar) on the team. I’m definitely skeptical, especially with Carmelo Anthony reportedly opting in to his player option worth $28 million, but the chance is still there.
George’s agent, Aaron Mintz (who also manages Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell), could also be publicly tweaking the Lakers so as to gain leverage, either with George or another one of his clients (in this case, Randle), a possibility that seems more likely when considering that Amick has almost always been the first one to report George’s discontent.
Regarding that last sentence of Amick’s report, what George does might not impact James’ decision at all. Here’s what Brian Windhorst had to say on the topic during an appearance on the Lowe Post yesterday:
“I’m 51 percent LeBron to LA, regardless of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard ... If I was percentage-wise I would say 51 percent LA, 40 percent Cleveland and nine percent Philadelphia.”
Again, I’m skeptical of James signing up to merely play with the young core the Lakers have in place right now and no other additions, as exciting as Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle might be. Perhaps James’ off-court interests weigh that heavily on his decision, but I find it hard to believe he’s okay with not competing for a championship at any point of the remaining years he has left in the NBA.
Free agency is still more than a week away, so this is all just getting started, in terms of posturing from agents and their clients alike. So get ready for all of this to be refuted in some manner or another at some point in the near future. This is going to be a long week and a half.