Going into the offseason, the belief among experts and fans alike was that it was a lock that Paul George would end up with the Los Angeles Lakers. But as the beginning of free agency neared, the likelihood of him remaining with the Oklahoma City Thunder seemed very real.
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Sure enough, within the first minutes of free agency, George agreed to re-sign with the Thunder on a max contract. Afterwards, George was pretty open about his thought process, praising the Thunder for ‘going all-in’ and trading for him the previous year.
George also believes that the Lakers were very unhappy about not even getting a meeting with George.
Now with the regular season just underway, George told ESPN’s Marc J. Spears that had he never been traded to the Thunder, he indeed would have signed with the Lakers:
“It was 50-50 on deciding whether I wanted to come back home or if it was smarter to be in the situation I am in now,” George told The Undefeated. “But it wasn’t overstated. I wanted to play in L.A. That is where I wanted to go. Had that trade never went down, had I played one more year in Indy, I would have been in a Lakers uniform.”
By these words it seems as if George had his heart set on returning to Southern California, but that one year in Oklahoma City really made a difference. He developed a great relationship with Russell Westbrook and the organization as a whole, and that made all the difference.
That is the concern when it comes to the Lakers potentially pursuing someone like Kawhi Leonard. The Lakers could have traded for Leonard this summer, but chose to stand pat and he was eventually sent to the Toronto Raptors.
Now there is a possibility of the same thing happening once again. At this point the Lakers can only focus on the players who are with the team. George may have had plans on joining the franchise, but it didn’t happen and both he and the Lakers must move on.