The Los Angeles Lakers headed into the 2017-18 NBA season armed with more cap room than any team in the league.
The hope was that with Magic Johnson’s charisma, a young roster full of talent, and plenty of cash to spend, the Lakers would be able to land a pair of stars lie Paul George and LeBron James.
One out of two isn’t bad.
George, who grew up in Southern California and has long been rumored to want to play for his hometown team, surprisingly spurned the Lakers just as free agency began by deciding to stay with the Oklahoma City Thunder. On ESPN’s series Paul George: My Journey, he explained why he made the decision that left many around the league scratching their heads:
“I 100 percent appreciate Laker Nation for wanting me to come back home, for wanting to play in front of them. “I wanted to come here a year ago prior to going to OKC. Unfortunately, I wasn’t traded to the Lakers. The Lakers didn’t grab me. I was traded to Oklahoma. And that has been a beautiful thing for me.”
The trade that George is referring to is the one that took place in the summer of 2017. George was on the block and demanding a trade from the Indiana Pacers to the Lakers, but the Pacers were rumored to want Brandon Ingram or the second overall pick in the draft in return. The Lakers, feeling that George would sign this summer as a free agent, opted not to pay that price, and he was instead sent to the Thunder in exchange for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.
During his year in Oklahoma City, George developed a relationship with both the franchise and star guard Russell Westbrook, which ultimately convinced him to stay.
The Lakers bounced back quickly by landing James the day after George’s decision.
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