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While all the speculation surrounded Paul George joining the Lakers, he instead chose to re-sign with the Thunder.
A year ago when the Oklahoma City Thunder acquired Paul George in a trade with the Indiana Pacers, they knew they were making a big risk. George had informed the Pacers that he wasn’t going to re-sign with them and intended to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers as a free agent during the summer of 2018.
Even with that in mind, Thunder GM Sam Presti still took that risk and traded Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis to Indiana to acquire George. After an up-and-down first season in Oklahoma City that ended in a disappointing first round playoff exit, many expected George would be heading to Los Angeles.
He’s from Palmdale, California and has continuously expressed how much he’d love to one day play for his favorite team growing up.
However, as we now sit one year after the trade, George not only agreed to re-sign with the Thunder on a four-year deal. He didn’t even take a free agent meeting with the Lakers brass.
What does all this say?
Aside from the Thunder making good on their risk, George’s decision to return plays a big role for his teammate Russell Westbrook, as well. While George was the free agent, Westbrook also dominated headlines this summer.
After seeing Kevin Durant leave the Thunder two summers ago, many speculated it was because he felt he couldn’t win a championship alongside Westbrook. When Oladipo made the leap towards becoming a first-time All-Star and winning the Most Improved Player award with the Pacers one year after playing with the Thunder, many speculated Westbrook held his teammates back.
As a star in his own right, many believed George would have a similar mindset: “I can’t win with Russ, I should seek winning championships elsewhere.”
George not only re-signed to continue playing alongside Westbrook, he committed to spend likely the rest of his prime years alongside Westbrook. After only a year, the two of them built a strong enough friendship to where George felt comfortable continuing to chase a championship alongside him. He proved that their off-court chemistry was strong enough to continue building upon their on-court chemistry.
George’s decision may perhaps lessen the criticisms against Westbrook being hard to play with. It may lessen the notion that no stars want to play alongside him, that Westbrook’s demeanor on the court pushes stars away.
It adds an entirely new wrinkle onto this Thunder team as they move forward for at least three more years with the Westbrook and George tandem leading the way. That makes the Thunder one of the early winners of this year’s free agency.