The Los Angeles Lakers and Paul George have long been connected, first for his admiration of Kobe Bryant, and in recent years because of persisting trade rumors and speculation for 2018 free agency.
While George informed the Indiana Pacers in 2016 that his preference was to join his hometown Lakers, Indiana traded their All-Star to the Oklahoma City Thunder. With George able — and likely — to opt out of his contract come the end of the season, the move was perceived as the Thunder going all-in.
With George already having played his first road game against the Pacers since the trade, the next to mark off the calendar was his a matchup with the Lakers in his first visit to Staples Center.
Rather than shower the opponent with customary boos, Lakers fans in attendance predictably applauded George and gave him a rousing ovation during pregame introductions.
A hero's welcome for Paul George. pic.twitter.com/nrMujH6LqT
— Matthew Moreno (@MMoreno1015) January 4, 2018
George facing his hometown team led to several talking points in the time leading up to tip-off, including his revealing the Pacers asked the NBA to investigate Lakers assistant coach Brian Shaw.
L.A. was ultimately fined by the league in a tampering charge that stemmed from purported contact between Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka and George’s agent.
And in what was an innocent answer to a question but will surely add more fuel to the fire come free agency, George had high praise for Lonzo Ball. He joined the chorus of players of who have lauded the rookie point guard for his style of play.
Even if he may be on borrowed time with the Thunder, George has been nothing short of a model teammate. “He’s a really team-orientated person,” head coach Billy Donovan said. “He understands there’s going to be sacrifices to be made. He understands that he can’t do it alone.
“I give him a lot of credit that that’s kind of been his approach. But I think it speaks more to his character, who he is as a guy.”
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