In his first game after signing a four-year contract extension with the Oklahoma City Thunder in the summer, Paul George scored 27 points, dished out five assists, and stole the ball four times as the Thunder lost to the Golden State Warriors, 108-100, on Tuesday. While his short-term future appears to be with the Thunder, the 28-year-old forward/guard recalled in a recent interview that there would have been a good chance of him wearing the Los Angeles Lakers’ purple and gold this season had Oklahoma City not traded for him a year prior.
Speaking to Marc J. Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated, George said that there was initially a “50-50” chance he would have signed with the Lakers in the 2018 offseason, as he truly wanted the chance to play for his hometown team. However, he stressed that he ultimately chose to return to the Thunder because he wanted to start an NBA season with the team without having to adjust to a new environment like he did last year following his trade from the Indiana Pacers to Oklahoma City for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.
“Going toward the summer and going toward free agency, I kind of had my mind made up talking with the team, talking with [point guard Russell Westbrook] and talking with the front office,” George recalled.
“I kind of felt good where we were at. Last [season], I didn’t get a chance to start with this team fresh. I got traded late. So, I picked up things late with the team. I wanted to get to it right away this time and start creating early.”
Talking about the trade that sent him to the Oklahoma City Thunder in July 2017, Paul George said that he would have signed with the Lakers in the 2018 offseason had the trade never happened and he remained with the Indiana Pacers.
“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.”
George’s comments about originally wanting to join the Lakers before getting sold on a long-term future with the Thunder are not unprecedented. In July, he spoke to Sports Illustrated’s Ben Golliver and admitted that it was a case of “true feelings” when he informed the Pacers he wanted to play for the Lakers, a team he had supported since his growing-up years in southern California. He added that he was happy with his choice to re-sign with the Thunder, whom he had “[fallen] in love with” during his first year with the team.
While Paul George’s 2018-19 season with the Oklahoma City Thunder didn’t exactly get started on the right foot, it remains to be seen how the Lakers will fare in their first game with LeBron James, whose move to Los Angeles became official shortly after George agreed to re-sign with the Thunder. The Lakers are scheduled to make their season debut against the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday evening, 10:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. PT, at the Moda Center in Portland.