Paul George always seemed to realize he couldn’t control where he’d play next season. The Pacers could have kept him, hoping he’d make an All-NBA team and giving them a chance to offer a super-max contract. They could have traded him to the Celtics or Cavaliers or Rockets. They obviously did deal him, to the Thunder.
But, next summer, he’ll have complete control as an unrestricted free agent. And every indication said the Southern California native planned to sign with the Lakers.
Now, we hear that straight from George.
George, via ESPN:
Of course, I wanted to come home. I wanted to play in L.A. and play for my hometown. But then a lot of me looked situation – like, if a team comes in and you absolutely love it, why walk away from it?
This is the baseline Oklahoma City is trying to overcome.
The Thunder offer Russell Westbrook (at least if signs a designated-player extension this summer or re-signs next summer) and a welcoming environment. George sounds open to staying – if Oklahoma City wins.
George has competing priorities. Playing in his hometown matters. Winning matters.
We’ll see how George balances everything, but it’s hard to see the anyone but the Lakers as the default option, the team he’ll join unless another situation looks nearly perfect.
Maybe the Thunder will be that appealing – George’s mature approach gives them a real chance, and they’re doing as well as they can so far – but they’re still starting from behind.