Last summer, Paul George was set to become a restricted free agent and Lakers fans were hoping for the All-Star forward to return home. However, the Los Angeles Lakers were never given the opportunity as George signed a five-year, $90 million contract extension to remain with the Indiana Pacers.
At his youth basketball camp, George says it was great to see Lakers fans wanting him to play at home, but ultimately loves where he’s at according to Vincent Bonsingnore of the Los Angeles Daily News:
“It was great as well as a little overboard,” he said. “It was great in the sense of Lakers fans and Los Angeles in general wanting me to come home and play for the Lakers and play at home.”
“It would be awesome to play at home,” he said. “But I love where I am.”
While Dwight Howard left last summer and Carmelo Anthony decided to remain with the New York Knicks this off-season, George believes the Lakers are still an attractive destination, but understands the pressure of playing for this historic franchise:
“How could you not want to play in L.A.?” he said. “The history of playing in L.A., the culture of L.A. and them being up there with the Celtics as the most successful organizations in our league, how can you not want to play here?”
“Where a lot of guys kind of lose it, there is pressure,” he conceded. “You have to come and perform. There’s constantly stars coming to games. It’s just a lot of pressure and a lot of people and eyes are on you and a lot of distractions in L.A. So, there’s pressure there.”
Despite being the early favorites to win it all after a fast start to the season, George and the Pacers could not sustain their high level of play and found themselves losing to the Miami Heat again in the Eastern Conference Finals. While Indiana lost Lance Stephenson in free agency, George’s development as one of the best players in the league should help them remain in the thick of things.
For the Lakers, they have moved forward with Plan B by re-signing numerous players from last season’s roster while adding Carlos Boozer, Jeremy Lin, Ed Davis, Julius Randle, and Jordan Clarkson. While they couldn’t land another superstar to help Kobe Bryant, they were able to maintain their financial flexibility to land players like Kevin Love in 2015 and Kevin Durant in 2016.
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