In 2017, the Los Angeles Lakers had the chance to trade for Paul George when he requested a trade from the Indiana Pacers.
However, the Lakers talked with the Pacers on several occasions before deciding it was against their best interests to make the deal happen. The major reason for this was they felt they could sign him outright in 2018 NBA free agency.
Eventually, George was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder where he spent one season before becoming a free agent. And while most people believed he’d pick the Lakers, he shocked many by staying with the Thunder. He then posted a three-part ESPN documentary talking about the decision he’d made.
According to new reports, the San Antonio Spurs almost got involved in dealing for George, but lacked the necessary assets to make one. Then the focus shifted fully to the Lakers before they declined a deal that would’ve sent Brandon Ingram and the No. 2 pick (that became Lonzo Ball) in exchange for George, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN:
A league source confirmed that the Pacers and Spurs talked, but San Antonio lacked the assets to pair George with Leonard. The Lakers also wanted George, but then team-president Magic Johnson would not trade the 2017 second overall pick (which would become Lonzo Ball) and Brandon Ingram, believing they could eventually sign George as a free agent.
This decision by president of basketball operations Magic Johnson would eventually come back to bite them in a way, as George says it was in the back of his head during his short-lived free agency:
“As far as the Lakers, I wanted to go to L.A.,” George says. “They didn’t make that happen. They didn’t put nothing together. So that’s in the back of my mind [when I became a free agent]. That was in the back of my mind.”
While it’s impossible to know exactly what’s going through George’s mind — considering how often his mind seems to change — it does seem he’s been very consistent on this fact. It appears he was hurt by the Lakers not making a greater attempt to trade for him when he was on the Pacers and that led to him spurning them in free agency.
Regardless of that, the Lakers got the All-Star duo they were after all along and George got to move back home and play with Kawhi Leonard. However, it’s still fascinating to imagine what would’ve happened if the Lakers had made that trade.