There were a number of high-profile stars on the free agency market this summer, but when the deals were actually inked, many of them weren’t that surprising. Kevin Durant stayed with the Warriors, Chris Paul remained with the Rockets and even LeBron James’ decision to join the Lakers was pretty much expected by the time it happened.
One move that came as a fairly big surprise, however, was Paul George’s decision to re-sign with the Thunder. When George was traded to Oklahoma City last summer, everyone expected it was a one-year rental before he left for the Lakers. But the Thunder believed they could use last season to sell George, who grew up close to Los Angeles, on sticking around long-term to play with Russell Westbrook, and it turned out they were right.
George said the Thunder made an “awesome” gamble in trading for him, and added that he actually made up his mind to stay with the Thunder well before free agency began. He didn’t even end up giving the Lakers a meeting. Via ESPN:
“It was an awesome gamble. They went all-in and went blackjack,” George said after USA Basketball’s minicamp practice Thursday.
George said he privately decided to return to the Thunder several weeks before free agency began on July 1. He also acknowledged having an expectation that NBA star LeBron James would sign with the Lakers as a free agent.
So why didn’t George give the Lakers a meeting in free agency?
“It was absolutely tempting,” George said. “Honestly, I wanted to come back home. But again, I got traded to Oklahoma. Loved the situation. Loved where I was at. I decided to stick around a little longer. …
“I just wanted my free agency to be over with. In my heart, I felt great about Oklahoma and I wasn’t going to prolong it if I felt good about it already.”
Furthermore, George said the Thunder’s first-round exit actually strengthened his desire to stick around and get better.
“I felt when it came down to it and all the factors that played into it, deep down there was a nasty taste where we finished,” George said. “I just felt I had more to offer. I had more to give. I just felt about where we were as a whole.
While it’s easy to see the allure of Los Angeles and potentially playing with LeBron James, it’s hard to fault George for doing what he felt was best. It’s not as if he passed up an automatic championship to be the man on a lottery team — and if he did, that would be fine too — the Thunder are going to be a very good team.
Plus, for as rich and famous as NBA superstars are, they’re still human beings. Moving across the country for a new job with new co-workers in a new city is a hassle — especially if you feel it may be a lateral step. Preferring to stay somewhere you feel comfortable and believe you have a good chance to succeed is very relatable.
Courtesy: CBS Sports