Paul George was considered one of the most talented and unpredictable free agents of 2018. Despite the Oklahoma City Thunder's first-round exit in the playoffs, however, the five-time All-Star has committed to returning to the Thunder.
At a house party hosted by teammate Russell Westbrook and via social media, George made it clear he is staying in OKC. First, he verbally committed to the Thunder at Westbrook's house party, via a video posted by Gabe Ikard of 107.7 FM's The Franchise on Twitter:
In the video, George is flanked by Westbrook and says "If ya'll didn't quite get it, let me say it again: I'm here to stay." After saying that, the crowd erupts in wild celebration as Westbrook puts his hand to his ear as they cheer. George then says again, "I'm here to stay."
On Sunday morning, George also posted an Instagram photo of himself with Westbrook and the caption of "Unfinished Business."
And, in perhaps the most telling sign that George is in fact staying put, the Thunder tweeted via their official account that general manager Sam Presti "intends to enter into a player contract with Paul George."
Sam Presti: The Thunder intends to enter into a player contract with Paul George.
Per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, George will re-sign with the team on a four-year, $137 million deal. Here's more from ESPN's Royce Young on the deal and George's future with the Thunder:
Paul George has agreed to a four-year, $137 million max contract to stay with the Oklahoma City Thunder, league sources told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
The deal includes a player option on the fourth year, the sources said.
Without taking any free-agency meetings, George made the announcement that he is staying with the Thunder at a house party in Oklahoma City hosted by Russell Westbrook, sources at the party confirmed.
With many assuming that the Los Angeles Lakers were the unquestioned favorites for George, his decision to stay with the Thunder came as a bit of a shock. However, sources told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne that George informed the Thunder of his intentions well before Saturday's party so they could operate in free agency with confidence that he was staying.
George was traded to OKC almost exactly a year ago after informing the Indiana Pacers that he would not re-sign with them, instead preferring to join his hometown Lakers in free agency. The Thunder spent the year recruiting George to sign up long-term, beginning with fans welcoming him at the airport and a welcome party organized a day after.
The Thunder's odds of keeping George appeared strengthened on Saturday when Young reported superstar guard Russell Westbrook would host a "summer hype house party" in Oklahoma City on Saturday night with George having just arrived in town.
As for George's other options, the call of home ultimately was not strong to the California native. The Lakers were one of the teams most often linked to George, especially in conjunction with fellow free agents LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard.
In 79 games last season, George averaged 21.9 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists and two steals per game in 36.6 minutes per game. Shortly after the Thunder lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Utah Jazz, George had a scope of his left knee performed. He is expected to miss six to eight weeks as he recovers from the injury.
Days ago, Thunder forward Carmelo Anthony reportedly opted into his deal with OKC for next season.
* * *