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Paul George doesn’t care if Lakers fans hate him for staying with Thunder in free agency, wants to prove he was right to stay in Oklahoma City

Paul George keeps getting asked about why he chose the Thunder over the Lakers in free agency, and he keeps answering.

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

It’s March of 2056. The world has become a hot desert hellscape straight out of a Mad Max movie. There is little water, even less food. People rove the wastelands in packs of heavily souped-up and impractical vehicles. A still-alive and now-65-year-old Paul George continues to be asked why he chose to re-sign with the Oklahoma City Thunder instead of joining his hometown-adjacent Los Angeles Lakers in free agency in the summer of 2018.

All snark aside, the “asking” part of this is important to note, because George doesn’t seem to be wandering around to various reporters and telling them his thoughts on why he spurned the Lakers — and didn’t even grant them a meeting — in free agency.

Nevertheless, George continues to answer such questions instead of “no-commenting” them, and so here we are, writing about his latest explanation for his choice (this time via Master Tesfatsion of Bleacher Report):

This season, George is out to prove that his free-agency decision to re-sign with the Oklahoma City Thunder—and his desire not to return to Southern California and play for the Lakers—was the right move.

As he is going through the best year of his career, thrusting himself into the MVP conversation, it’s clear he made the right decision more than eight months later.

“Oklahoma City is where I feel comfortable at,” George says. “L.A. can hate me or love me. The decision was ultimately mine.”

George is absolutely right. His free agency choice was his decision, and his decision alone, to make. And based on the fact that he’s had an MVP-caliber campaign for the Thunder this season — averaging 28.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists while shooting 39.1 percent from 3-point range — it seems George made the correct call.

Still, the reason Lakers fans feel a certain way about George doesn’t seem to be just because he didn’t choose to join their favorite team, although that’s certainly a factor. Nor is it that he’s played so well, although again, it probably doesn’t help.

No, the real reason — at least in this author’s view — that Lakers fans seem to not like George is because of the perception that he sort of led the Lakers on for nearly a calendar year before not even granting them a free agency meeting. Again, George changing his mind after initially demanding a trade to the Lakers is his right, but it’s also somewhat understandable that Lakers fans felt burned by his choice. At least he seems to understand that they have just as much of a right to feel that way as he has to live his own life.

For his part, George tried to explain what happened last summer again, and in the lead-up to it, and why he thinks Lakers fans might feel spurned:

“I think my words kind of threw people off because they read one sentence, and it’s, ‘Oh, he’s going to L.A.,’” George says. “I wanted to go to L.A. I said that, and I voiced that ever since the Pacers were just about to trade me. But, it didn’t happen. I went somewhere else. I loved the situation. I was wowed by the situation. That’s where I feel comfortable at.

“I think people just got caught up in the situation a little too much. But it’s my life. It’s my livelihood. It’s my job, and I’ve got that right.”

He does have that right, as all players do when their free agents. We’re all human, and all change our minds too. It’s not the same, but all of us can probably relate to thinking we wanted to work one place, or in one type of job, and then changing our minds, either due to starting to like our current situation better or finding a different path.

That seems to be what happened here with George, and given how things have gone since — George looks like one of the best players in the NBA with his Thunder supporting cast and seems to genuinely enjoy playing with Russell Westbrook, all while the Lakers find themselves out of the playoffs after an injury-riddled start to LeBron James’ Lakers tenure — it’s hard to not think George probably made the right decision. Especially if he’s happy with it. That’s all any of us can hope for out of our careers.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.

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