Years before Paul George worked to facilitate a trade from the Indiana Pacers, speculation was already rampant that he one day would join his hometown Los Angeles Lakers. The sentiment went into overdrive when George requested to be moved.
But as the Lakers refused to include Brandon Ingram in a trade, the Pacers looked to other teams and eventually struck a deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Many viewed it as a one-year situation as George had indicated he would sign with the Lakers in free agency.
Although the Thunder struggled and suffered an inglorious first-round exit in the playoffs, the trade worked out in the sense that George re-signed on a four-year max contract this past summer. His spurning of the Lakers included not even granting them a meeting in free agency.
Now George gets to face the team he was long pegged for, which given how matters unfolded, could make for an unsettling visit to Staples Center. The 28-year-old admitted to being uncertain on how he will be received but brushed that aside in lieu of a bigger focus, per Maddie Lee of The Oklahoman:
“Not sure. I’m excited to see what it will be. Regardless, I came here to win. That’s the only thing I’m worried about.”
George has been openly cheered for by Lakers fans, particularly last season when he was playing out the final year of his contract. One fan who sat courtside for a game wore a customized Lakers jersey with George’s name on the back.
Wednesday’s matchup did lose some of its luster as the Lakers are without LeBron James as he continues to recover from a strained groin. So with George in the midst of a career season, the task of slowing him down will largely fall on Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma.
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