It’s no secret that the Los Angeles Lakers expect to be major players during the upcoming free agent period this July. One potential target that comes to mind is Paul George, who’s expected to headline a stacked class with the likes of DeMarcus Cousins and LeBron James potentially testing the market.
While many have speculated that George will eventually bring his talents to the Lakers this summer, that’s no longer a foregone conclusion. George, in his first season with the Oklahoma City Thunder, has meshed well with reigning MVP Russell Westbrook — not only on the court, but off it as well.
He has cited an excellent relationship with Westbrook on many occasions, which could ultimately be the deciding factor in free agency. That was recently evident this week, when the NBA announced reserves for All-Star Game — most notably without the inclusion of George, which led to vocal support from his teammate Westbrook.
During an interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols, George was appreciative of Westbrook’s comments following his All-Star Game snub and indicated their strong relationship could lead to him re-signing with the Thunder:
“Russ is the reason why this decision is becoming even more easier to make, is the character Russ is. A stand-up guy, and he has his teammate’s back. We were actually joking before he went up there, and I’m like, ‘Nah, Russ, man, just let it go, let it go Russ. It is what it is, I wasn’t picked,’ and he was like, ‘Nah, man, P, that’s messed up. I’m gonna tell them something about that. It was awesome for a teammate to have your back and to stand up,” he said. “And to be honest, he should be a starter. He’s been the MVP, been the best player at his position. He should’ve been a starter, but that’s another story. But the fact Russ had my back, that’s my guy forever, and it’s more apparent what this decision needs to be made when it comes down to it.”
Sustaining a winning culture will obviously be crucial in George’s decision, as well. As it currently stands, the Thunder find themselves with a 27-20 record — good for the fifth seed in the Western Conference.
After a rocky start, the team has seemingly gotten back on track with good play from its stars and supporting cast.
Earlier this month, prior to a game against the Lakers at Staples Center, Westbrook expressed confidence that NBA title victory later this season would be enough recruiting to convince George to remain with the Thunder.
While it will be challenging to knock off the reigning champion Golden State Warriors and top contender Houston Rockets, Westbrook likes his chances of teaming up with George for the foreseeable future.
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