After several weeks of trade rumors that linked him to a wide variety of teams, Paul George was ultimately sent to a suitor that had barely been mentioned, with the Pacers trading him to the Oklahoma City. Speaking to Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated, George discussed his new team and dismissed the idea that he’s a lock to eventually become a Laker.
“I grew up a Lakers and a Clippers fan,” George said. “I idolized Kobe [Bryant]. There will always be a tie here, a connection here. People saying I want to come here, who doesn’t want to play for their hometown? That’s a dream come true, if you’re a kid growing up on the outskirts of L.A., to be the man in your city. But it’s definitely been overstated.
“For me, it’s all about winning,” George continued. “I want to be in a good system, a good team. I want a shot to win it. I’m not a stats guy. I’m playing this game to win and build a legacy of winning. I’ve yet to do that. I’m searching for it. If we get a killer season in Oklahoma, we make the conference finals or upset the Warriors or do something crazy, I’d be dumb to want to leave that.”
While we shouldn’t pencil in a long-term deal for George and the Thunder quite yet, his comments suggest it’s not a foregone conclusion that he’ll jump ship at season’s end. The star forward also sounds positive about Oklahoma City, having received an endorsement of the city and the organization from a somewhat unlikely source: a fellow All-Star who decided to leave OKC a year ago, Kevin Durant.
“KD was like, ‘That place will blow you away,'” George said. “He told me, ‘They can offer what other teams can’t in terms of the people and the preparation and the facility, down to the chefs and the meals.’ He was pretty high on them. He thought it was a first-class organization in every way.”
George will be eligible to hit the unrestricted free agent market in the summer of 2018, at which point the Lakers are expected to have room for at least one maximum contract, while the Thunder will hold George’s Bird rights and will have the ability to offer him more years and dollars than any other team.