Paul George made headlines this week when he said that the Los Angeles Lakers were “pissed” that they didn’t get a meeting with him in NBA free agency this summer, but given that the team signed LeBron James, George’s comments only made him look like the one with sour grapes.
Instead of coming home to Southern California and teaming up with James, George almost immediately agree to terms on a four-year, $137 million deal to stay with Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
And while that public spurning of Los Angeles after being rumored to be interested in a homecoming for more than a year might have seemed indicative that those rumors of George’s desire to be a Laker might have been just that (rumors), George said on the “Short Story Long” podcast with Chris ‘Drama’ Pfaff that he actually did want to come home to the Lakers, and that he still might at some point (h/t Lakers Nation):
“I wanted to, man. Honestly, I wanted to. I wanted to come back home (in 2017). I’m 28; still got another contract.”
Health and strong play permitting, George does have another deal waiting for him at the end of his current contract. He’ll be 31 or 32 at that point, depending on if he exercises a player option that will pay him almost $38 million in the fourth year of his deal in 2021-22, or decides to wait for 2022 free agency to dip his toes back into free agency.
As of right now, the Lakers books are pretty clean for those summers, but if Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball develop like the Lakers hope they will — and that’s without mentioning possible new contracts for Kyle Kuzma and/or Josh Hart— the team will be paying them hefty raises by those summers.
In 2021, the Lakers will also (in all likelihood) still be committed to paying LeBron around $41 million should he pick up a player option of his own, although he’ll be off the books by the next summer if he decides to hang up his Nikes after that.
All that is without factoring in the chance/probability that the Lakers get another star in 2019 — whether it’s Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard, or someone else — which combined with Ball and Ingram panning out (still an if, albeit a hoped-for one) would probably take them out of the running (or at least not make them the primary option) for George that summer.
The way George treated his free agency after a year of flirting with the Lakers will also probably not exactly leave fans or the organization clamoring for his homecoming, and while that’s just speculation, it doesn’t seem too farfetched, even if a lot can change in three or four years.
For now, though, what George wants in three or four years doesn’t really matter anyway. The Lakers signed a far superior player in LeBron James this summer, and even if they probably would’ve preferred to pair the two, the fact that they didn’t trade for George last summer is an indication they weren’t that desperate to get him on the roster.
Instead, the team seems to be confident they can add another star this summer in free agency or in a trade, and worrying about George’s free agency desires isn’t their problem for another few years, if ever again.
You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.