The future of Oklahoma City Thunder star Paul George has been one of the most talked about topics in the NBA rumor mill this season. All season long, there had been speculations that the five-time All-Star would choose to opt out of his current contract to join his hometown squad, the Los Angeles Lakers, in free agency this July.
However, a recent report by ESPN’s Royce Young said that George “definitely” sees himself staying in Oklahoma City after this season even if the Thunder fails to advance to the playoffs. At the moment, OKC is precariously hanging on to the seventh spot in the West, but the playoffs race in the conference is quite close with seven teams almost having identical records and still competing for the remaining five postseason slots.
According to George, the result of this season would not affect his upcoming free agency decision as he has been satisfied with OKC and his teammates so far. He acknowledged that the team is a long way from its true potential and that he would come back next season to continue their improvement.
“I’ve been happy here, I’ve been happy with the organization, happy with my teammates… I’m not going to let the playoffs or how we finish this season persuade or indicate where I’m going to this offseason. I’m going to put everything into this and again, I can definitely see myself being here.”
George continued that it “takes time” for any team to reach its perceived value on paper. He said that he did not expect a “championship or bust” scenario for him when he joined OKC and that he just “naturally” fell in love with the franchise and the city.
“This is our first year together… So this wasn’t a championship or bust coming into this for me. It was just an opportunity to see what it’s like being here and just to naturally fall in love with it. And it’s been that. It’s been a lot of love here.”
It was not a secret that the Lakers are keen on targeting George this coming offseason. Team president Magic Johnson had been so vocal about their interest in the former NBA Most Improved Player that the club was fined $500,000 last summer for allegedly violating the NBA’s tampering rules.
George actually had a lot to do with it as well since he was the first one to tell the media that he wants to come home and play in Los Angeles in the future. The Palmdale, California, native said in an interview last season when he was still with the Indiana Pacers that he plans to join the Lakers when he becomes a free agent.
The Lakers reportedly tried to trade for him last summer, but the Pacers eventually decided to move George to the Thunder in exchange for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.
Meanwhile, Colin Cowherd claimed in a recent episode of The Herd that George “is not gloriously happy right now.” The Fox Sports host continued that George is “getting fewer shots and worse shots” playing alongside Russell Westbrook, who he said was “very difficult to play with.”
Cowherd also said that if the Thunder fails to qualify for the playoffs, then “Paul George is gone” as the former Fresno State standout will “not have his brand diluted like that.”