When the Los Angeles Lakers traded Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. at this season’s deadline, many wondered if the Cleveland Cavaliers inadvertently assisted them in an expected pursuit of LeBron James. And related to that is the Lakers’ reported interest in signing Paul George as well.
On track to have more salary cap space available in 2018 free agency than any other team, L.A. has long been said to have a desire to chase superstars this summer. At one point that group consisted of DeMarcus Cousins, George and James.
However, Cousins’ Achilles injury left George and James as the more likely free agents that would be pursued. Whereas James’ intentions are well masked, it’s widely believed George has a strong interest in returning to his Southern California roots.
That led the Indiana Pacers to trade him to the Oklahoma City Thunder in July 2016, rather than George’s preferred destination: the Lakers.
While some believed the Thunder took a risk on a rental, which looked like even more of a gamble after they were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, Oklahoma City might be in a strong position to re-sign George after all, according to Marc Stein of The New York Times:
There is a growing belief around the league that Oklahoma City has a far better chance to retain the free agent-to-be Paul George than many believed when the Thunder crashed out of the first round of the playoffs. As George prepares to field the Lakers’ long-anticipated interest, his willingness to post an Instagram picture of himself last month from a hospital bed after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee has helped to fuel the notion in some corners that he’s in no rush to leave OKC.
George has openly embraced the sentimental feeling and appreciation he has for playing in front of friends and family at Staples Center. But by that same measure, he’s raved about the Thunder.
During his exit interview, George praised the organization as checking off necessary boxes he will look for when deciding where to sign. George also spoke highly of playing alongside Russell Westbrook, which went against public perception.
Although George may be interested in re-signing with Oklahoma City, they may face an uphill battle to make the finances work if Carmelo Anthony exercises his player option, which he’s expected to do. One option would be to use the NBA’s stretch provision to free up salary cap space.
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