Lakers Rumors: Thunder May Not Afford To Keep Paul George In Free Agency, NBA Exec Says

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Rumors of a potential Paul George free agency signing for the Los Angeles Lakers have died down in the past few weeks since the five-time NBA All-Star said that he was favoring to stay with the Oklahoma City Thunder after teammate Russell Westbrook stood up for him during the process of selecting this year’s All-Stars.

Westbrook defended George’s initial non-selection, saying that it was “unbelievable” and “outrageous” that his teammate was left out of the game, via ESPN. The reigning league MVP then said that “the guys that deserve it” should be included, but they are not.

Everything ended well for George as he has since been named in this Sunday’s game as the replacement for the injured DeMarcus Cousins, who was ruled out for the rest of the season after suffering a torn Achilles tendon.

Apparently, George liked the way Westbrook endorsed him with regard to the All-Star Game issue, and so he is now reportedly inclined to remain in OKC for the long-term.

In an interview with ESPN‘s Rachel Nichols, George said that Westbrook is “the reason why this decision (of staying or leaving the Thunder) is becoming even more easier to make.”

“It was awesome for a teammate to have your back and to stand up,” said George. “And to be honest, he should be a starter. He’s been the MVP, been the best player at his position. He should’ve been a starter, but that’s another story.”

OKC Thunder players Paul George and Russell Westbrook
OKC Thunder players Paul George (left) and Russell Westbrook.

Speculations of George staying with the Thunder solidified when the Lakers announced that they are planning to “recalibrate” their focus to the 2019 free agency period instead of taking a shot at superstars this summer.

However, Bleacher Report‘s Eric Pincus cited an anonymous Western Conference executive as saying that the Thunder might not be able to afford to keep George in the upcoming free agency.

Pincus noted that OKC could spend over $250 million to keep George, Westbrook, and Carmelo Anthony together, and he believes that the team’s ownership may not decide to go that direction “for a roster that doesn’t scream ‘title contender.'”

The Thunder are fifth in the West right now with a 32-26 record. They have lost six of their last eight games after the 120-112 beating in the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night. If OKC fails to keep it together, then the chances of Anthony settling for a smaller contract to accommodate George would be slimmer, Pincus said.

Lakers Nation‘s Harrison Faigen said that the rumor should be “good news for the Lakers’ chances” of acquiring George, as there are still some analysts who think that Magic Johnson and company will push through with their initial plan of trying to sign two max free agents in July.