Speculation that Paul George would one day return to his Southern California roots and play for the Los Angeles Lakers went into overdrive last summer when he requested a trade from the Indiana Pacers.
With just one year remaining on his contract, George made it clear his preference was to be dealt to the Lakers. Naturally, Los Angeles was said to have interest, but ultimately were unwilling to part with the necessary assets in order to trade for George.
After all, he was a perceived lock to sign with the Lakers come 2018 free agency. Despite making that sentiment clear, the Oklahoma City Thunder rolled the dice.
There were growing pains throughout the season and a disappointing first-round exit in the playoffs. Yet, George re-signed with the Thunder on a four-year, $137 million contract.
Clearly, relationships forged during the season factored heavily into his decision. And considering how the situation ultimately unfolded, George praised the Thunder for completing a trade with the Pacers, via ESPN’s Marc J. Spears:
“It was an awesome gamble. They went all-in and went blackjack,” George said after USA Basketball’s minicamp practice Thursday.
Although George had long been a heavy lean to sign with the Lakers, signs began point to him remaining in Oklahoma City as the start of free agency drew closer. He re-signed without so much as taking a meeting with any other team.
It was later reported that George informed the Thunder well in advance of free agency beginning that he would remain with the team.