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NBA Free Agency: Paul George still has ‘love’ for the Lakers, but felt he had unfinished business with the Thunder

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Paul George says he really did want the Pacers to trade him to the Lakers, but that he couldn’t stomach leaving a Thunder team that he still feels he and Russell Westbrook can take further.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

For the first time since snubbing his hometown Los Angeles Lakers for the Oklahoma City Thunder this summer, Paul George talked about his shocking decision to re-sign on a long-term deal with OKC instead of coming home to L.A.

WARNING: This story is not for the faint of heart.

On Thursday, George told Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated that while his heart was in Los Angeles last year, the Thunder organization made a strong and lasting impression on him over the course of the season.

“When I told the Pacers I wanted to play [in LA], that was true feelings,” said George, a native of Palmdale, Calif. “I wanted to come back home. To play for home, to put that jersey on for family and for what I grew up watching. I wanted to carry that legacy. But I went to Oklahoma, fell in love with it and I’m happy with the decision.”

After the Thunder were swept by the Utah Jazz in the first round of the NBA Western Conference Playoffs, many felt that it was a near guarantee George was a goner once the free agency moratorium rolled around. George, however, felt that the adversity that he and his team experienced throughout the season made them closer and, as a result, made it harder for George to ditch town at the end of the season.

“My feelings for the Lakers are the same. I love the organization, I love the history, I love the legacy,” George said. “But being around Sam, being around Russ, being around [coach] Billy [Donovan], [Andre Roberson], Steven [Adams], I gained a brotherhood. [Giving that group only] one year just didn’t sit well with me. I went to war, I went to battle, we made the playoffs, we were in the hunt, and we stuck together all year long. You never heard of any turmoil, no matter how we played, in the locker room. We built a real brotherhood there and I didn’t want to walk away from that.”

It sounds like George made the decision to stick around in OKC with his heart, but did he make the right decision by staying? Only time will tell, but when you pass up an opportunity to play alongside arguably the greatest player to ever step foot on the hardwood on one of the most storied franchises in all of sports — for your hometown team, no less — it’s hard to make a case for a situation that’s better.

George might have made the decision he felt was best for him, but it’s too soon to say whether or not it was the right one. Hopefully when the Lakers and the Thunder meet next season, they can make George second guess his choice.