One season removed from being treated like a hero, Paul George was the certifiable villain when the Oklahoma City Thunder faced the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center. George previously received warm receptions whenever returning home but Wednesday night was a much different story.
He was met with a smatter of boos when the Thunder took the court for pregame warmups. There was more vitriol during introductions and each time George touched the ball. Cheers rained down when he picked up three fouls in the first quarter, but more boos followed as he was substituted for.
“I mean, I knew coming into it (what the reaction would be). There was no shock or surprise,” George said. “I was prepared for it. It is what it is. I’m the bad guy, and that’s fine.
“Other than saying I would want to play here, I didn’t choose to come here. I’m not the only guy from So. Cal area that didn’t decide to play here.”
George previously expressed his appreciation for how he was treated at Staples Center. While it swung in the completely opposite direction, he similarly enjoyed the environment.
“It was fun. I enjoyed it. The booing wasn’t going to throw me off my game,” George said. “I’ve been playing basketball for a really long time. A little booing and a little noise is not going to make me forget how to play basketball.”
Missed shots and early foul trouble seemed to throw the 28-year-old off his rhythm but George eventually settled in. He scored a game-high 37 points, which included a flurry late in the fourth quarter to help the Thunder seal their win.
“I just wanted to play basketball, honestly. I didn’t come to L.A. to sit on the bench. I just wanted to play some ball and that’s what I did,” George said of the three quick fouls he picked up.