At midnight eastern Saturday night (into Sunday morning), NBA free agency opens. Minutes after that, the first signings will be announced. (Not that there’s tampering in the NBA. Nope. No sir. Teams and players are in no way setting everything up through back channels.)
One thing that appears to be a lock for an early announcement: Paul George returning to Oklahoma City. We’ve reported that’s the trend now for a while, but now there are signs it’s a lock. The best is from Royce Webb of ESPN.
Paul George is arriving in Oklahoma City early Saturday evening, as Russell Westbrook is hosting a private party in town late Saturday night as free agency opens, sources told ESPN.
Westbrook has organized the party, dubbed a “summer hype house party,” being held at a property near Lake Arcadia. He invited around 500 guests with the promise of a “surprise performance by a multi-platinum artist.”
Sources told ESPN that artist is Nas. The invitation says, “The FOMO will be real.” Invited guests were required to sign a non-disclosure agreement.
Take that how you want, but it sure feels like that is more of a celebration than a recruitment party.
For a week now the buzz has been growing that George was leaning toward re-signing with the Thunder. OKC traded for him last summer — not thinking they were giving up that much, but then Victor Oladipo made a leap — and made the bet they could win him over with their culture, fans, Westbrook, the coach and system. It may have worked.
It’s expected George will sign a two-year contract (maybe a one-plus-one, more likely two-plus-one) at the max. Two reasons for that. The big one is money — right now his max deal is 30 percent of the salary cap, in two years that jumps to 35 percent (the cap is $101.8 this season). The other reason, it gives him control in case the Oklahoma City experiment goes sideways and he wants out.
Expect this announcement to come early in free agency.