Many fans and pundits considered it a foregone conclusion that Paul George would sign with the Los Angeles Lakers this summer. But, of course, he didn't. George elected to stick with the Oklahoma City Thunder, signing a four-year, $137 million deal.
More surprising than George's decision: he didn't even take a meeting with the Lakers. So, why didn't George sit down with his hometown squad and hear them out? He recently explained his rationale to Sam Amick of USA Today Sports. Here's how George viewed the situation:
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. 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 and work to get better with the Thunder. So I wanted to attack that early and get ready for my career.
The Thunder didn't live up to expectations in Year One of George's run in OKC and bowed out in the first round of the playoffs. But they're hoping a year of experience—plus the offloading of Carmelo Anthony, who is expected to sign with the Rockets—will help the squad make a leap in 2018-19.