Some teams backed off their pursuit of Paul George last summer in part because the people around him were not subtle about saying he was going to the Lakers as a free agent in 2018.
Oklahoma City wasn’t one of them, they went all in on a Paul George/Russell Westbrook/Carmelo Anthony big three, convinced they could sell George on staying. After a slow start to the season as the Thunder lost a lot of close games and those three stars didn’t play well off one another, things have started to turn around of late (at least until the last two games, both close losses). For a lot of people around the league the conventional wisdom has not changed: George is going to leave OKC to be a Laker next summer.
At shootaround Wednesday — before the Thunder take on the Lakers at Staples Center (where George will hear a lot of cheers from the fans — Westbrook was asked his pitch to keep George from heading West next July. Via Bill Oram of the Orange County Register.
Westbrook has never lacked for confidence. You have to love that about him. For the record, fivethirtyeight.com has the Thunder with a three percent chance to win the NBA title. If anything, that feels a little generous. The Thunder’s slow start has dug them a hole in terms of playoff positioning (OKC is likely the four or five seed, so a tough first-round matchup then likely the Warriors in the second round) they likely cannot climb out of. Plus, who is their fifth crunch-time player they trust?
If the Thunder are out in the second round, is that enough to keep George?
Also last summer, the Lakers were fined for tampering with Paul George, reportedly because of contact between GM Rob Pelinka and George’s agent (if Pelinka said the Lakers were interested — is that actually news or tampering in a meaningful way?). George also addressed the tampering issue, saying the Pacers were put off by his friendship with Lakers assistant coach Brian Shaw (which goes back to when both were in Indiana), but there was no recruiting.
At this point, how much do the Lakers need to recruit George?