Going into the summer, it was viewed as almost a foregone conclusion that Paul George would sign the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency. However, not only did George re-sign with the Oklahoma City Thunder, he did so the minute he was eligible to.
Meaning, the Lakers and other teams didn’t so much as to present their pitch to George. The Lakers quickly moved on from being spurned by George, ultimately signing LeBron James and building around him.
James himself has even supported George on his decision to remain in Oklahoma City. The topic continues to be a talking point as George is asked to revisit his decision and the process.
Most recently, he appeared on the “Short Story Long” podcast with Chris Pfaff, where he explained that the Lakers not trading for him initially left a lasting impact on him:
“I almost was gonna to go to Cleveland. I was close to playing with LeBron. Then Boston was coming through. I wanted to go back home and play for the Lakers. That was the initial plan. Pacers didn’t want to do that. Lakers didn’t want to give up anything to grab me. So that was a salty taste. To be vulnerable like, ‘Hey, I want to come home.’ … I put it out there like, ‘I want to go home and that’s where I’m going to sign.'”
This is something George has mentioned before, praising the Thunder for going all in and dealing for him, but still maintaining that he has love for the Lakers organization. That love exists despite George believing that the Lakers were upset at not getting a meeting with him this summer:
“Just my year there, I just felt comfortable. I felt like I’ve been around those guys forever. That was just the feel. It didn’t feel like a new relationship. It felt like these are guys that I want to compete with. Coming down to free agency, I didn’t want to waste any time. I wanted to give it another shot. We gave it one year and played well against the best teams. I wanted to give it a real shot. … And I mean, L.A. was pissed at me. I didn’t give Magic (a meeting), which I understand. I understand. But at that point, I mean, I knew I wanted to give it another shot. I didn’t want to prolong and waste people’s time.”
In the end, George had his mind made up on what he wanted to do and didn’t feel the need to meet with the Lakers. Considering what the Lakers did this summer, and the position they’re in going into next offseason, the organization is just fine.
If anyone could’ve changed George’s mind it was probably Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson. So it’s probably best for George that he simply stayed away because Johnson would’ve made it nearly impossible to turn down the Lakers.
And though he spurned them, George didn’t rule out potentially signing with the Lakers once his current contract with the Thunder expires. He can opt out and become a free agent in 2021.