Only minutes shy of the start of NBA free agency, reports emerged that Paul George had agreed to re-sign with the Oklahoma City Thunder and skip out on even meeting with the Los Angeles Lakers, who had been expected to heavily court the Palmdale native.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the news just shy of the NBA’s official start to free agency at 9:01 p.m. Pacific Time on Saturday, and several other reporters including Sam Amick of USA Today promptly confirmed Wojnarowski’s reporting.
A season earlier, George informed the Indiana Pacers that he would not be re-signing with the Pacers when his contract expired, and the 28-year-old was reportedly interested in a move out west to the Los Angeles Lakers at the time.
In fact, the NBA even fined the Lakers $500K for tampering related to George after the Pacers reported the Lakers and asked the league to investigate. Apparently, that wasn’t money well spent.
Fast forward a year, and a first-round exit to the Utah Jazz still wasn’t enough to convince George to leave Oklahoma City for Los Angeles — or even take a meeting with the Lakers.
By the time the doors opened for the Lakers to approach free agents and for Lakers president of basketball operations Earvin “Magic” Johnson to make his pitch, George had already finished his meal and the Thunder had grabbed the check.
Wojnarowski detailed the terms of George’s deal with the Thunder at four years and $137 million with a player option on the final year. Yes, George took the maximum amount of money.
What does George staying in Oklahome City mean?
LeBron James was the Lakers’ primary target in free agency to begin with, and that shouldn’t change with George’s decision. The main implications relate to Julius Randle, who is a restricted free agent and is now far more likely to return to the Lakers since they will not be saving the extra salary cap space for George.
A decision on Randle will likely depend on when another team approaches the player and offers him a contract. The Lakers have the option to match any contract since Randle is a restricted free agent, and they will be in no hurry to re-sign the strong forward until they have heard James’ decision.
Missing out on James after missing out on George would be a soul crushing start to the summer of 2018 and one that the Lakers and Johnson would struggle to recover from. Still, if the team can somehow convince James to join and perhaps even put together a trade package for Kawhi Leonard from the Spurs, which has been a point of discussion in recent days, LA will come away smiling.
As far as starts go, though, losing George before the opening bell was about as poorly as night one of free agency could have gone for the purple and gold.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Source: NBC Los Angeles