Rumors and reports have been flying for months that All-Star forward Paul George, a Los Angeles County native who grew up idolizing Kobe Bryant, is strongly considering signing with the Lakers next summer as an unrestricted free agent. The interest is apparently mutual, with the Lakers drawing a $500,000 fine for tampering via contact with George's agent after having previously been warned to stay away.
The Thunder, however, are doing everything in their power to provide George with an even more alluring option.
First they acquired him from the Pacers to pair with reigning MVP Russell Westbrook. Then they landed a third All-Star, Carmelo Anthony. And now the Thunder have locked Westbrook in for the near future with a five-year, NBA-record $205 million extension, increasing optimism even further as they attempt to recapture their previous status as a legitimate Western Conference contender.
It all adds up to a message by the Thunder -- we want to win, and we will take care of our players -- that George has heard loud and clear before playing his first game in an Oklahoma City uniform.
"We've been on an unbelievable start right now, and for him to be committed here, it says a lot," he told the media on Saturday. "Not only in us pairing together, but just knowing what type of dude Russ is and his values and his beliefs and him being committed to this organization says a lot. And I'm one person that's enjoying it here, so I think when (free agency) comes, the decision will be easier to make for myself."
Anthony, who has a player option next summer, declined to answer any questions about his future. But, like George, he was also impressed with the mutual commitment between Westbrook and the Thunder.
“I was happy,” Anthony said. “I think everybody should be happy and excited about right now and the future. He’s a cornerstone of this organization. He’s proven that yesterday by agreeing to that deal and not only showing this organization his commitment but also showing the city of Oklahoma (City) his commitment to them too.”