Morning Shootaround

Shootaround (July 11) -- Paul George says winning, not L.A. homecoming, remains top goal

Plus, Ben Simmons chimes in on what his role should be and other news from around the NBA

NBA.com Staff

This morning’s headlines:

* * *

George opens up on move to OKC, potential future with Lakers — The Oklahoma City Thunder will introduce new acquisition Paul George to the media and fans tomorrow night. Since he was officially dealt to the Thunder last week, little has been heard from George about his move there or his future plans (the Lakers?). Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins caught up with George on those topics and more:

George has no relationship with Russell Westbrook beyond pregame pleasantries. He describes Sam Presti as one might depict a character in a spy novel. All he has ever seen of his new home is the Skirvin Hilton Hotel and Chesapeake Energy Arena. But in the 11 days since George was sent from Indiana to Oklahoma City, he has done his research, asking former Thunder players what he can expect in one of the league’s smallest but staunchest markets. One notable source was particularly insightful.

“KD was like, ‘That place will blow you away,’” George says. “He told me, ‘They can offer what other teams can’t in terms of the people and the preparation and the facility, down to the chefs and the meals.’ He was pretty high on them. He thought it was a first-class organization in every way.” The Thunder, who essentially traded Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis for a yearlong free-agent pitch session with George, will take any recruiter they can get—even if it’s the guy who left, sweet-talking his replacement.

George has discovered in the past several months what Durant and LeBron James already knew about superstar defections. “There’s no right way to handle it,” George says. “I get the frustration. I get why people are upset. But at the same time, I want the average fan to understand that we only get a small window to play this game and more than anything you want to be able to play for a championship. I wanted to bring that to Indiana. I really did. I love Indiana. That will always be a special place for me and I’m sorry for not holding on. But I wasn’t sure we’d ever get a team together to compete for a championship and that’s where all this came from.”

Throughout 2016, George followed the dog-eared free-agent playbook, betraying little about his future plans. “I straddled the fence,” he says. “‘Let’s see how this team shapes up and we’ll let you know.’ There was no, ‘Hey, I’m sticking around,’ and no, ‘Hey, I’m leaving.’” Not until June, after Pacers president Larry Bird resigned, did he sense a shift in the franchise and in himself. The core that reached the Eastern Conference Finals three years ago—George Hill, David West, Roy Hibbert—were all gone, as was the legendary architect. “Here I am, the last guy, and I kind of felt a rebuild coming,” George says. “I felt like the window had closed. I thought they were going in a different direction and I wanted to go in a different direction.” He didn’t ask for a trade. He told the Pacers he intended to sign elsewhere after his deal expired in ‘18. “I wanted them to have the opportunity to get something back if they didn’t want me to play that last year.”

On the afternoon of June 30, a few hours before free agency dawned, Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard called George and informed him that he was off to Oklahoma. Jackson, despite his own turbulent exit from the Thunder, told his buddy that he would love it.

“I’m thrilled,” George says. “All I was asking for was a little help in Indy. Now I’m getting a lot of help in Oklahoma.” He and Westbrook talked briefly on the phone that first night. “I think I fit with how he plays and vice versa,” George says. “Being a knock-down shooter, I think I can spread the floor for him and run the floor with him. But I also think I can help get him easier opportunities, being able to drive and dish the ball out, so he can attack guys closing out on him.”

“I grew up a Lakers and a Clippers fan,” George says. “I idolized Kobe. There will always be a tie here, a connection here. People saying I want to come here, who doesn’t want to play for their hometown? That’s a dream come true, if you’re a kid growing up on the outskirts of L.A., to be the man in your city. But it’s definitely been overstated. For me, it’s all about winning. I want to be in a good system, a good team. I want a shot to win it. I’m not a stats guy. I’m playing this game to win and build a legacy of winning. I’ve yet to do that. I’m searching for it. If we get a killer season in Oklahoma, we make the conference finals or upset the Warriors or do something crazy, I’d be dumb to want to leave that.”

George will get four eyefuls this season of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and the young Lakers. Superficial measurements will matter far less than max slots and won-loss records. “It’s too early for L.A.,” he says. “It would have to be a situation where the ball gets rolling and guys are hopping on. This guy commits, that guy commits. ‘Oh s—, now there’s a team forming.’ It has to be like that.” But the same is true for virtually every locale outside of Oakland. “I’m in OKC, so hopefully me and Russ do a good enough job and make it to the conference finals and love the situation, why not recruit someone to come build it with us? I’m open in this whole process.”

* * *

Simmons: ‘I’m a starting point guard’ — Who knows what the Philadelphia 76ers’ backcourt will look like at the end of the 2017-18 season. That’s for coach Brett Brown to figure out. What is known is that the No. 1 overall pick from the 2016 Draft, Ben Simmons, is craving the opportunity to play point guard. Throw in that Philadelphia also has a No. 1 pick this year (Markelle Fultz) who plays point guard and there are some issues to resolve, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer:

Ben Simmons hears all the chatter. For months, folks have questioned whether the 76ers were making the right decision by turning the 6-foot-10, 240-pounder into a point guard.

“Everybody is a coach,” Simmons said late Sunday at the NBA Summer League. “Everybody is a GM.”

Simmons, who missed his rookie season because of a Jones fracture in his right foot, is confident in his ability. In an age of what is for the most part position-less basketball, he thinks it’s just a matter of feeling things out and playing. However, he doesn’t want folks to get things twisted.

“For me, I think you can move me anywhere,” Simmons said. “But I’m a starting point guard.”

The Sixers believe Fultz, a solid shooter and another point guard, is the perfect backcourt complement to Simmons.

“I have no problem sharing the ball,” Simmons said. “He doesn’t, either. Watching him play, he can share the ball.”

However, the team must find a way to incorporate free-agent acquisition J.J. Redick in the backcourt. The shooting guard will make $23 million and provide much-needed sharpshooting abilities. So it doesn’t make sense to bring him off the bench. To accommodate all three players, one could argue, the Sixers would be better off playing Simmons at point forward instead of point guard.

That would enable him to initiate offense after grabbing defensive rebounds, as he did at Louisiana State before he was taken No. 1 in the 2016 draft. His role would be similar to Draymond Green’s with the Golden State Warriors. Golden State’s offense runs through the all-star power forward. He often penetrates and finds the open player while point guard Stephen Curry is stationed without the ball at the three-point line.

Brown, however, is investing a lot of time in Simmons’ being the team’s point guard.

* * *

Wall not sorry for trying to recruit George — Just two weeks ago, Washington Wizards star John Wall was making his pitch to then-Indiana Pacers star Paul George to get traded to D.C. We all know how that worked out, but had the Wizards landed George it would have meant incumbent small forward Otto Porter Jr. would be gone. Instead, Porter Jr. will be back once Washington formally matches the offer sheet he got from the Nets. Candace Buckner of The Washington Post caught up with Wall to talk to him about his comments, his contract extension and more:

On Monday, Wall appeared at the Wizards’ NBA Summer League game, and when asked about his remarks, he explained his position and offered no apologies.

“Otto’s going to be a great player for us, a great role player for a lot of teams. There’s a difference between a role player and a superstar. It’s a big difference. There’s a lot teams that will make a lot of trades for a superstar,” Wall said. “Look at Kevin Love getting traded for Andrew Wiggins, you never know who that player going to turn out to be.”

Then, Wall specifically addressed the reaction.

“It’s what people are going to say about it,” Wall said. “I love Otto as a teammate, but at the end of the day if you can make your team better, you can always do that. If people take it the wrong way, then so be it.”

On the topic of his own extension, Wall is in no rush. When Wall made the all-NBA third team after last season, he qualified for the designated player exception (a four-year deal that pays out the highest amount possible). While Wall reiterated his devotion to the city, he plans to carefully consider the decision that could keep him with the Wizards for the next six years and through the prime of his career.

“I’m just chillin’. Just trying to figure out to negotiate it and manipulate it the way you want it to be,” Wall said, smiling, when asked about his status on a decision. “Everybody know where I want to play and where I want to be. Everybody took it the wrong way [when it was reported] I wanted to wait. It’s a big decision. I love D.C.

“Everything I do, I do it for the city of D.C., I do so much in the community. If it wasn’t for the love of that, I wouldn’t do it.”

* * *

Austin Rivers, Chris Paul: Talk of fractured relationship on Clippers bogus — Chris Paul is the new point guard for the Houston Rockets. Austin Rivers is a (likely) new starter for the LA Clippers. After Paul was dealt from the Clippers to the Rockets this summer, a report circulated that a poor relationship between Rivers and Paul played a part in the Clippers choosing to trade Paul. According to both Paul and Rivers, writes Sam Amick of USA Today, nothing could be further from the truth:

Austin Rivers had heard enough.

For two days, the 24-year-old Los Angeles Clippers guard heard all the chatter about how he was to blame for Chris Paul’s exit to the Houston Rockets late last month. It was easy to ignore at first, but then the media din grew louder.

ESPN. Fox Sports One. The LA radio airwaves. Everyone was talking about the story from ESPN anchor Michael Eaves, who reported on his professional Facebook page that the dynamic between Clippers coach and president of basketball operations Doc Rivers and his son was a major reason for Paul deciding to orchestrate the trade.

This was hardly the first time someone had alleged that Paul and Doc Rivers didn’t see eye to eye, but the level of detail relating to Austin’s alleged role took the topic to a new level. So, after Paul had texted Rivers to refute the report, Austin picked up the phone.

“I called Chris and was like, ‘Chris, what’s going on?’’” Austin Rivers told USA TODAY Sports while in town to watch NBA summer league. “Chris is like, ‘This is the biggest bull(expletive) I’ve ever seen in my life.’ Chris was just like, ‘This is a joke.’ So I asked him, I’m like, ‘You don’t need to come out and say nothing publicly, I don’t need you to do that. It’s just going to make it even more, now they’re going to drag it out two more days. I’ll take it. I don’t care. I’ve been dealing with this (dynamic) since I was six (years old). I really don’t even care.’”

The two spoke for approximately 40 minutes, with Paul reiterating to Austin that his reasons for leaving had more to do with his desire to join James Harden’s Rockets than they did the Clippers.

“What do I have to do with someone else’s move?” Austin Rivers asked. “Chris wanted to move because he’d been (with the Clippers) for a while. He’s had great years there, but he wanted something new. A lot of players want that. It’s really that simple.”

* * *

Reports: Spurs add big man Lauvergne — The San Antonio Spurs have never been a franchise to shy away from adding a foreign-born player who needs an NBA opportunity. From Marco Belinelli to Boban Marjanovic to current legends Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, the Spurs have several such success stories to turn to. According to Michael C. Wright of ESPN.com, the Spurs are adding promising, young big man center Joffrey Lauvergne on a two-year deal:

The Spurs continue to work to fortify their 2017-18 roster, agreeing to terms Monday with free-agent center Joffrey Lauvergne on a two-year contract, sources confirmed.

The Vertical first reported the news.

Lauvergne, 25, became an unrestricted free agent on Saturday when the Chicago Bulls rescinded their qualifying offer, spurring interest from multiple teams.

San Antonio jumped into the fray, as it is looking to add to its frontcourt after veterans Pau Gasol, David Leeand Dewayne Dedmon all opted out of the final year of their contracts. Lee and Dedmon are drawing interest from multiple teams, according to league sources. Gasol is expected to return to the Spurs on a more team-friendly deal after declining his $16.2 million option to free up cap space for the team.

* * *

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Joel Embiid went to the MLB’s Home Run Derby last night and caught two home-run balls … Guard Reggie Bullock has reportedly reached a deal to stay with the Pistons … Bulls second-year guard Kris Dunn (family issue) will miss the rest of Las Vegas Summer League … Some moves that went official yesterday: Jeff Teague and Taj Gibson to Minnesota; George Hill, Zach Randolph and Vince Carter to Sacramento and Milos Teodosic to the LA Clippers

Latest