The Lakers have been one of the worst teams over the last few years. They’re probably too young to improve much next season. Luol Deng‘s contract gets in the way of clearing cap space for two max free agents next summer.
But they’re Paul George‘s hometown team.
That, with the intertangled fact of playing in a huge market, was always going to be their biggest selling point in the George sweepstakes.
They might not hold exclusive rights on that hometown feeling, though. (And I’m not talking about the Clippers.)
Oklahoma City fans enthusiastically greeted George at the airport, and the Thunder made him feel even more welcome before his introductory press conference.
It’s been awesome. It’s really been awesome. You can’t script this up any other way of saying that this has really been an unbelievable trip here. I’ve been wild ever since we landed. I got a real welcoming, and this feels like home.
George also said all the expected things about focusing on this season, not free agency. And I believe him. Why rush this choice before it must be made? George will spend the season forming his opinion of the Thunder. There’s much more to assess than day one.
A key question: How will George play with Russell Westbrook? Working off the ball-dominant point guard was sometimes difficult for Oklahoma City’s last star forward, Kevin Durant, who spoke to George after the trade.
It sounds as if George is trying to keep an open mind.
What KD and Russ had, from my understanding, was nothing major. Guys, brothers necessarily – you fight. This is a job where you want the best out of everybody, and you’re going to bump heads. That’s as far as I know – and as far as I care to know – about their relationship.
But George isn’t entering the season with a completely blank slate. He’s already forming impressions of Oklahoma City, clearly positive ones.
It’ll still matter how the Thunder and Lakers – and other potential suitors – play this year. It’ll still matter whether the Lakers can clear cap room to sign two stars without infringing on their young core.
But, at this point in its year-long recruitment of George, Oklahoma City should feel as optimistic as can be.