The Los Angeles Lakers have been a rumored landing spot for Oklahoma City Thunder free agent Paul George for years now, but it’s still not clear whether or not he will actually sign with his hometown team.
The Lakers have been carefully clearing up salary cap space since the arrival of president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka over a year ago. The intent has seemingly been on signing superstar-level free agents this summer.
George, a Southern Calfornia native, has always been reported as being near the top of their wish list. In fact, it looked as though George was going to join the franchise last summer.
He demanded a trade from the Indiana Pacers and attempted to scare off all suitors besides the Lakers by claiming that he would simply sign with them as a free agent in 2018 anyway.
The message was intended to prevent teams from giving the Pacers an acceptable offer since they would not want to part with key assets to acquire a player who would walk out the door a year later.
The Thunder took the risk anyway, surrendering Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis in a trade for George, convinced that a season of playing alongside Russell Westbrook would convince him to stay. Now, it appears that George is genuinely conflicted, per ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith:
“He keeps going back and forth of what he wants to do.”
– @stephenasmith on Paul George
— ESPNLosAngeles (@ESPNLosAngeles) June 23, 2018
The Lakers would love to have George, as he would slot in easily in the team’s switch-heavy defensive scheme, provide playmaking and shooting on the offensive end, and take free agent Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s spot in the starting lineup.
Friends and family are also reportedly telling George to return to Southern Calfornia, but he did bond with Westbrook and leaving the side of a superstar to play with a team full of young players isn’t always easy.
That’s where the hiring of Johnson could really pay dividends as a someone who can sell the benefits of being a Laker perhaps better than anyone else. And more importantly, Johnson can bring the feeling of winning in Los Angeles to life.
Of course, it wouldn’t hurt if Johnson and Pelinka could also sell the possibility of playing alongside fellow free agent LeBron James as well.
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