California native Paul George was so certain he was joining the Los Angeles Lakers two years ago that he informed the Indiana Pacers of his intention to bolt.
That triggered a trade to the Oklahoma City Thunder last offseason, which paved the way for George to come to the conclusion he preferred Oklahoma City over L.A.
He turned down a meeting with Lakers team president Magic Johnson to re-sign with the Thunder, a four-year agreement worth $137 million.
“The reason why I didn’t (take a meeting) is that coming down to free agency and before it was about to open (on July 1), I felt really good where I was at,” George said in an interview with USA Today Sports.
“I felt I was in a good place with Oklahoma. I wanted to come back to LA. That story was true. The narrative on that was true. That’s where my heart was. But this year, being in Oklahoma, I felt really good about the situation, I felt really good going forward, and I didn’t want to waste nobody’s time and take a meeting. And now I’m straddling the fence, putting more stress and more pressure on the situation. I felt good about it. I felt great where we were at, so I decided to do it early, to get it over with, and start to build. I didn’t get that chance to last summer, because I got traded late in the summer. So I never got that chance to start fresh, to work to get better with Russ (Russell Westbrook) and work to get better with the Thunder. So I wanted to attack that early and get ready for my career.”
Westbrook signed a three-year extension worth $85.6 million.
Westbrook and George were part of the 23-player Team USA workouts in Las Vegas this week. Also present: Westbrook’s former teammate, Kevin Durant. Durant bolted in free agency to join the Golden State Warriors. Durant’s exodus sparked narratives about superstars not wanting to play with Westbrook.
By choosing to re-sign, George put Oklahoma City and Westbrook ahead of Los Angeles and the chance to play with LeBron James.
“It wasn’t even about him going beyond and being extra (with his efforts),” said George. “It was about him being himself, him being genuine, him being authentic, him being real. Nothing about him is fake, and that’s the people I want to be around, somebody who’s going to tell it like it is, somebody who’s going to push you, somebody who’s going to encourage you, somebody who’s going to motivate you, and vice versa. That’s how I am. It just felt genuine.”
—Field Level Media