When Paul George decided not to take a meeting with the Los Angeles Lakers, many jumped to the conclusion that it was because he didn’t want to play second fiddle to LeBron James in L.A.
While there might be a sliver of truth to that, George denied that James or the city of Los Angeles had anything to do with his decision in free agency. Instead, George told Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times that he was just more comfortable staying put in the Sooner State:
“This wasn’t a thing against LeBron, as if I didn’t want to play with him,” George said. “And, it wasn’t if I chose Russ [Russell Westbrook ] over LeBron. I just enjoyed where I was at. To be honest, those are two great players.
“To be honest, I wanted to give another chance, another shot, playing with Russ, who is one of the best point guards in the league. I gave it one year. I wanted to give it more time to develop and see what we could do.”
This quote somewhat debunks the notion that other All-Star players don’t want to play with James, even though George didn’t sign with the Lakers. In George’s case, he was sold on the culture that the Thunder had built and wanted to be part of it. There’s nothing James could have done about that.
George also came to the realization that he can just spend his summers in L.A. like basically every other player in the NBA does:
And the excitement of Los Angeles? That’s not going anywhere.
“The thing is L.A. is home,” George said. “I’m here every summer. I spend three or four months here every year. It’s not like I’m missing much.”
George’s gamble has paid off so far, as the Thunder are just a game back from the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference 37 games into the season. Meanwhile, the Lakers are in danger of falling out of the playoff race because they haven’t found the formula to winning without James.
It’s still early in the season, but it’s hard to imagine George regrets his decision. Hopefully the Lakers can turn it around and change that later in the season.