NBA free agency this summer figures to center around LeBron James and Paul George, with DeMarcus Cousins sitting on the periphery of the conversation. The three are the most-notable players who longer will be under contract come July 1.
Where James and George will land remain question marks fueled by endless speculation. The Los Angeles Lakers have been perceived as the favorite to sign George for the better part of a year.
He’s never denied a desire to return to Southern California, and last summer reportedly was motivated to end up with the Lakers one way or another. Some of that cooled when George was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder, but a first-round playoff exit ignited rumors.
As the Thunder face various reports that detail George’s believed intentions or wishes, general manager Sam Presti is pleased with talks the organization has had with the soon-to-be-free-agent, per Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman:
Presti says dialogue with Paul George “has really encouraged us.”
— Brett Dawson (@BDawsonWrites) May 2, 2018
On the night the Thunder were eliminated by the Utah Jazz, George expressed a strong desire to re-sign with the team. He’s since praised the organization as a whole for meeting criteria that are important.
Some remain skeptical, however, in some part due to a perceived difficulty in playing alongside Russell Westbrook. Moreover, the Thunder would face a financial crunch in signing George to a max-contract in the event Carmelo Anthony exercises his $28 million player option for next season.
At minimum, the Lakers figure to at least secure a meeting with George to make their pitch. During an exit interview last month, president of basketball operations Magic Johnson voiced a confidence in being able to sign a free agent under such a setting.
One suggestion was George had all but made up his mind to move on from Oklahoma City.