Last offseason, Paul George expressed his desire to leave the Indiana Pacers and play for his hometown team, the Los Angeles Lakers. Lakers President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson and General Manager Rob Pelinka decided not to trade for George, believing they could acquire him in 2018 NBA free agency without giving up valuable trade assets. The Oklahoma City Thunder took the risk of trading Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis to the Pacers for a possible one-year rental.
Despite suffering an early elimination in the Western Conference Playoffs, Russell Westbrook and the Thunder managed to establish a good relationship with Paul George. All their hard work paid off when George committed to re-signing with the Thunder on the first day of free agency without giving the Lakers the chance to make their pitch. In an interview with Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated, George revealed that his desire to play for the Lakers “was true feelings,” adding that he wanted to come back home.
However, the 2017-18 NBA season made him fell in love with Oklahoma City. As of now, George has no regrets choosing the Thunder over his hometown team in free agency.
“My feelings for the Lakers are the same. I love the organization, I love the history, I love the legacy,” George said. “But being around Sam, being around Russ, being around [coach] Billy [Donovan], [Andre Roberson], Steven [Adams], I gained a brotherhood. [Giving that group only] one year just didn’t sit well with me. I went to war, I went to battle, we made the playoffs, we were in the hunt, and we stuck together all year long. You never heard of any turmoil, no matter how we played, in the locker room.”
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) July 27, 2018
Regarding Carmelo Anthony’s departure in Oklahoma City, Paul George believes that the Thunder’s decision is what is best for both sides. George said he loved teaming up with Anthony, but things didn’t just work out in their first season playing together with the Thunder. As of now, George and Russell Westbrook are definitely aware of the tougher challenge that they will be facing in the 2018-19 NBA season.
The Western Conference is expected to be more competitive now that LeBron James is playing for the Los Angeles Lakers. However, the Thunder’s main goal next season is to beat the reigning NBA champion Golden State Warriors. The Warriors just got stronger with the acquisition of All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins in the recent free agency. George believes playing against Golden State will always be a battle, and all they need is to prepare and be ready for every challenge they will face.