Storyline: Paul George to Lakers?

113 rumors in this storyline

If Rob and Magic Johnson ask, would you be willing to attend their free-agent pitch meetings this summer as they try to attract stars like LeBron James and Paul George? Kobe Bryant: Well, no. I mean, I’ll call, but I’m not going to be in the meeting. Listen, I’m not part of the organization in any kind of professional way, right? If the players themselves have questions, [I’ll talk to them]. Or if the Lakers want me to reach out and call a player or something like that – if they want me to talk to the player and give my two cents on what it was like to play here and what this market is like – I’ll certainly do that. But in terms of being part of the meeting in any official way? The answer is no. But Rob and Magic both have great flexibility when it comes to the cap and they have great young talent. And I’ve known Rob for a long time; this dude is as smart as they come, so he’ll figure it out.

More Rumors in this Storyline

There is a growing belief around the league that Oklahoma City has a far better chance to retain the free agent-to-be Paul George than many believed when the Thunder crashed out of the first round of the playoffs. As George prepares to field the Lakers’ long-anticipated interest, his willingness to post an Instagram picture of himself last month from a hospital bed after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee has helped to fuel the notion in some corners that he’s in no rush to leave OKC.
1 month ago via SLAM

Do the Blazers need Paul George to compliment you and Damian Lillard? CJ: “I already tried to get Paul George once. He already turned us down once. You can only shoot your shot so many times in the DMs before you just have to give up. He left me on red receipt, you know [laughs]. “But nah, he’s a cool dude, and he’s got to do what’s best for his family. He couldn’t control where he went. He ended up getting traded anyway to OKC. “I wish him nothing but the best, and I’m sure he’ll enjoy that California sunshine next season.” (Crowd laughs) CJ: “What? It’s the truth.”

Paul George’s candidness is unique. I can’t recall a player so openly flirting with the idea of leaving his current team. But what does it all mean, anyway? The latest noise from NBA executives is more of the same. Most buy into the fact George is drawn by Los Angeles and will leave unless the Thunder reach the NBA Finals. Others have become increasingly skeptical that he’d leave Oklahoma City. One executive said via text on Sunday that he could see George signing a one-year extension with the Thunder then reviewing his options for 2019 when a larger chunk of star free agents to potentially team up with will be available. The same is true for LeBron James, who led the rejuvenated Cavaliers to four straight wins entering the break.

Paul George feels “a real brotherhood” with Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony, he told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols in a sit-down interview, which aired Sunday. Talk of the Los Angeles Lakers has surrounded the five-time All-Star, who will become a free agent at the end of this season. The Lakers are not only George’s hometown team. He also requested to be traded there when he informed the Indiana Pacers he would not be re-signing come 2018 free agency. George has, however, been complimentary of the Oklahoma City Thunder since the team traded for him over the summer.

The Lakers, even have beating the Thunder on Sunday, have struggled, and talk of them bringing in multiple max free agents this summer, while still certainly possible, is not as emphatic around the NBA as it was at the start of the year. Part of that is because people aren’t as pessimistic about the Thunder’s chances of re-signing their best two-way player. “Of course, LA is home, so that’s always going draw the attention. But we’ll see. I won’t rule anything out, but I’m definitely happy where I’m at,” Paul George said to ESPN. “I like where we’re going, and I want to see how this unfolds.”

When Larry Nance Jr. hears rumors about LeBron James, Paul George and/or DeMarcus Cousins potentially joining the Lakers, does he get excited? “Um, hmm. So-so. I mean, like I said, there are rumors that LeBron is going to go [everywhere]. There are rumors about everything. Obviously, everybody knows about the Paul George stuff and that whole saga. Now there’s [talk like], ‘LeBron may come to L.A. and he just bought a house there]!’ And yeah, we read all of that. We read all of the clickbait stuff. But in reality, we’re just focused on what’s in front of us. We’re just trying to be the best team we can be and if someone like LeBron James or Paul George or one of those stars does come here in the summer, then it’s like, ‘Whew! That would increase our win total by, like, 20!’ You read it. You look at it. But in terms of paying attention to it? Not too much.”

Sam Amick on Paul George’s future: “I’m torn on this one. I might have spent a little bit too much time with Paul out in Oklahoma City. Going into this season, I got a strong sense [he would stay]. I know you remember when he came out strong and said that the Thunder had already done everything to prove that they’re a championship-caliber organization. He set this early tone that he didn’t want to go anywhere. But we all knew that we’d have to see how it all played out. I feel like I’m on the fence here. The Lakers thing is real, but he has said consistently that winning and the long-term view and the on-court stuff is the No. 1 factor. So I’m going to take him at his word. I can’t really answer [where he lands] until I know what this OKC team does. We do know this: He has said it’s not a ‘championship or bust’ equation in his head.

Sam Amick: So Paul is on record saying they don’t have to win it all this year for him to want to come back. Does that mean they have to make the Conference Finals? Does that mean it just depends on how he’s feeling [about the situation] even if they only make it to the second round? The playoffs are going to be big. He likes the group. He likes the organization. They’re starting to work out the kinks and figuring out how to all play together… I’m going to say let’s wait until the playoffs and see what happens [before predicting what George will do].”

It would be silly for George to tip his hand when he hasn’t seen all his cards yet. Any combo of Banana Boat riders and him would be formidable anywhere, and the pull of Los Angeles is strong throughout the league. But the Thunder aren’t folding, either. OKC has Westbrook, and it has Anthony, and it has George’s Bird Rights, and that’s way more than almost anybody else is showing at the moment. “Of course, I keep saying L.A. is home, so it’s always going to be a destination,” George said. “But again, I’ll be stupid if we make the conference finals, or we go neck and neck with the Warriors, and this being our first year together, I’d be stupid to walk away from that.”

According to NBA insider Eric Pincus, the Lakers will target both DeMarcus Cousins and Paul George closer to the NBA Trade Deadline. “Plan A for the Lakers is still LeBron James. Having said that, at the deadline, the Lakers have two targets: Paul George and DeMarcus Cousins. I think George is more of a long shot since the Thunder seem to have figured things out over the last 10 games. However, the Pelicans are a different story because they’re just above .500. If they don’t climb the standings, they will be open to move Cousins,” Pincus said during the LakersNation Podcast.

Michael Lee on Paul George’s free agency: “I think he wants to win, first and foremost. I think he’d love to win in L.A., knowing what success in Los Angeles can do for you from a business perspective, from a marketing perspective and just from a legacy perspective. If you win with the Lakers, you’re elevated to a higher place since it’s a storied franchise and the league’s glamour spot. If he could win there, I think that would be great for him. But I think his No. 1 objective is that he wants to win. I mean, he’s 27 now; he’s not getting any younger, he’s in his prime and he’s overcome a lot to get back to being an elite player again. He’s going to explore everything, but I think he’ll go with the place that gives him the best shot at winning. If he can’t find a place where winning at a high level is inevitable, going home is probably his next best option.”

In some circles, the Lakers are still considered the front-runners. The Thunder hasn’t given George many reasons to commit long-term, even after OKC GM Sam Presti was hailed for trading off four role players for George and Anthony. Reigning MVP Russell Westbrook has looked lost with George and Anthony. At the core of the problem: They’ve got three prolific scorers who are most suited for iso-ball, not for playing the team-oriented brand of basketball played by West-leading Houston and the Warriors. At 12-13 and coming off a home loss to Charlotte, which had won only one road game all season, the Thunder has the 25th offensive rating, at 102.1. They’ve lost a host of games after squandering big leads. “At some point it’s got to stop,’’ George said earlier this week.

Natural speculation has followed, something George is used to from his former days with the Indiana Pacers and from previous reports about him potentially ending up with the Los Angeles Lakers once he hits free agency in 2018. “I’ve been so used to that type of chatter, being in Indiana, the whole L.A. [thing], I’ve been used to that,” he said Tuesday. “So, it doesn’t get to me. At the end of the day, it’s my decision, and I’ve always been happy where I’m at and what decision I make. So, I’m happy. Put it like that. I’m happy.”

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.”

Miller said George has a “love affair” with the L.A. life, but the man who was No. 58 on Forbes’ list of world’s highest paid athletes for 2017 still voluntarily finds his way to anti-Hollywood. George is the ringleader of the pickup games, which include the 5-foot-7 Miller. “It’s on him,” Miller said about George pulling together the games. “He’ll pass on the word from there.” “Our gym is always going to kind of be a special place for kids in our program they enjoy coming back and reliving those memories,” said Tom Hegre, George’s high school coach. “Where you grow up is where you have memories.”

Although George’s feelings could change, especially if he is traded to a team he likes, the Lakers aren’t willing to part with too much to trade for him. Second-year forward Brandon Ingram, a favorite of the Lakers’ coaching staff, has caught Indiana’s eye, but is off limits. Without the help of a third team, the Lakers weren’t willing to part with the No. 2 overall pick before the draft — the pick they used to take former UCLA star Lonzo Ball.
1 year ago via ESPN

One team source went as far Tuesday as saying there’s “zero chance” they’d ‎surrender Thursday night’s No. 2 pick or Ingram Yet sources say the fact that Indiana has made George available via trade league-wide — after hearing directly from George’s agent Aaron Mintz over the weekend that the player has no desire to commit his long-term future to the Pacers — has led to talks that could potentially result in the Lakers’ acquiring George this offseason.

George intends to leave the Pacers as a free agent after next season with the expressed preference of joining his hometown Los Angeles Lakers. In conjunction with previous comments by Earvin “Magic” Johnson, the Lakers president of basketball operations, the news caused a large segment of those Pacers fans to wonder about tampering. Did the Lakers entice George to leave the Pacers? What about Johnson’s public comments about George and the Lakers? Could the Lakers be fined or penalized by the NBA? That’s unlikely to happen, according to multiple league sources.

But after making it all the way back from his horrific leg break in the summer of 2014, and threatening to unseat the great LeBron James in those back-to-back Heat-Pacers conference finals, George finds himself more focused on legacy than ever. And whether it’s realistic or not, the 27-year-old who grew up idolizing Bryant in Palmdale, Calif. clearly believes he can lift the Lakers out of the darkness. The question now, it seems, is whether the Lakers will have the necessary patience and prudence on their end to make the most of their situation.

George had his own sit-down with Kimmel Monday night, and he did his best to not get himself in trouble when asked if that moment would have any affect on him moving forward. “No man. I love Magic, (he’s a) great dude,” George said, before laughing when Kimmel responded by saying that it was good he thought that because he was going to be working for him with the Lakers. “I know I’m always going to get those L.A. ties, man. I’m an L.A. kid,” George said, before joking that former Lakers star Kobe Bryant is a bigger deal in his family household than he even is.

Bird, according to sources, was unwilling to trade George before the NBA’s trade deadline in February. With Bird no longer making the Pacers’ top basketball decisions, a trade to ensure the Pacers receive compensation for George could become more of a possibility this summer. If George doesn’t make one of the All-NBA teams, he could re-sign with the Pacers for approximately $180 million over five years. In either case, he can sign with another team for four years and about $130 million.

Lakers president Magic Johnson jokingly made his desire to have George in a purple and gold uniform known publicly during an interview last week with late-night talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel, laughing and winking about how he was well-versed on tampering and couldn’t recruit a player under contract with another team. And one of the league’s worst-kept secrets is that the Lakers have a strong appeal for George given their proximity to his hometown of Palmdale, Calif., and his affinity for Kobe Bryant, even though George actually grew up a fan of the Clippers.

Magic said: “I had to go to school. I had to go to CBA school, salary cap school and tampering school (laughs). You can’t tamper with somebody else’s player.” Jimmy followed that up by questioning what Magic would do if he saw Paul George while on vacation. Here’s Magic’s answer: “No, we gonna say hi because we know each other, you just can’t say, ‘Hey, I want you to come to the Lakers,’ even though I’ll be wink winking like (winks a bunch of times) you know what that means right?”

Johnson beat Bird to it. The phone call lasted less than five minutes, consisted mostly of small talk and might have touched only briefly on the fate of Indiana star Paul George. “I wasn’t motivated to move Paul George at the deadline,” Bird said. “I can’t remember if it was even brought up or not. I don’t think it was. It’s all fake news anyway. You know that. Somebody’s gonna start it and [it] just was a snowball effect. [The phone call] was not about Paul George.”
1 year ago via RealGM

“Magic Johnson did lob a call to Larry Bird, but if you’re the Lakers and you don’t have a tremendous amount of assets, they have some young players they hope will develop. They’re going to sit back and wait to sign him as a free agent. They’re going to have cap space in 2018. “If they were to try to trade for him, they would have to give up the core of their team and Paul George is going to have no one to play with there. “I think this is how the Pacers are looking at this. All things being equal, they know that Paul George would rather be in L.A., but they are not equal.”
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