I’m being told Paul George is on stage with Russell Westbrook at the party. “I’m here to stay,” George said. “We can bring it home.”— Royce Young (@royceyoung) July 1, 2018
Paul George told the Thunder he was staying “early” so they could set everything up, per sources. In other words, they’ve been operating like he was staying for a bit now.— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) July 1, 2018
Paul George: “I’M GONNA STAY”. pic.twitter.com/GPfutBdlQ5— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) July 1, 2018
George had been heavily linked to the Lakers since reportedly requesting a trade to his hometown of Los Angeles in the summer of 2017. But after a season with the Oklahoma City Thunder and a party with Russell Westbrook and their management to kick off free agency, George decided that the midwest is where he’d rather be.
In his lone season with the Thunder, George averaged 21.9 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2 steals per game. He also shot a team-high 40.1 percent from the three-point line, despite averaging his lowest field goal percentage in four years.
George was also one of three players to average at least 20 points, 5 rebounds and steals per game last season and the only player to shoot at least 40 percent from behind the arc and average at least 2 steals per game.
The Lakers could have traded for George last season but opted to wait for free agency, seemingly certain at the time that they would be able to woo the Palmdale native back home. George getting dealt elsewhere and deciding he likes it demonstrates the risks of such a strategy, and why the old idiom of a bird in the hand being worth two in free agency (or something like that) is so apt.
But while George signing with the Thunder is a blow the Lakers’ visions of a George/LeBron James/Kawhi Leonard superteam, with the most cap space in the league and the seeming inevitability that they’ll sign James, Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka are well positioned to pivot to other options as free agency continues.