By choosing the Clippers over the Lakers in a battle for Los Angeles, Paul George broke the heart of many Purple and Gold fans. Here’s the demoralizing video:
Paul George "I love L.A., this is home. I grew up watching Kobe, when I first fell in love with the game and I'm outside playing in front of the house I'm not picturing myself in a Indiana jersey or a Thunder jersey. I picture myself in a Lakers jersey." pic.twitter.com/oxazfalYYE
— gifdsports (@gifdsports) June 29, 2018
In case you can’t tell, that voice right there is Paul George, and this video was released just before he had the option to sign with any team in the league.
Now, I’m no genius, but after hearing this, I would probably bet George is giving a good, hard look at signing with the Lakers. It’s not like he said, “I can picture myself playing for the Liaoning Flying Leopards with Lance Stephenson.
The Lakeshow thought so, too… not that he was going to ship out to China, but that he’d be joining the famed purple and gold.
Instead, the Lakers were misled, ignored and arguably screwed over by PG-13.
It all started in June of 2017. Paul George informed the Pacers front office he did not intend to resign with the team when his contract ended in 2018 season. Years of playoff disappointment had gotten to his head, and he wanted out of Indy. Rumors swirled he has asked to be swapped to the Lakers to be closer to home.
The Lakers weren’t the only ones lining up for PG’s services, but they were widely regarded around the league to have a leg up on other suitors like the Cavaliers and Celtics.
However, the Pacers had other ideas. They swapped George to the Thunder in the offseason for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.
The Lakers fan base was disappointed, but hopeful. The general thought process was George to OKC was a rental, and the Lakers would snap him up in one year.
Adding insult to the Paul George injury, the Lakers were investigated that August for talking behind closed doors to a player they didn’t even get, AKA the infamous and common “tampering” charge.
The Lakers denied all accusations, but you’d have to be pretty naive to believe they had a shot at one of the best players in the world and just decided to completely stay away.
Anyway, Brian Shaw, a former Pacers coach who then moved back to work with the Lakers, had extensive conversations with George during the period before he was traded to OKC. When questioned on this, George said these conversations were “mostly about fishing”.
Something like, “Hey Paul, how about you come fishing… in a Lakers uniform.”
The Lakers were still hit with a $500,000 fine, making it the most expensive fishing conversation in history.
The Laker faithful were forced to endure a dreadful 2017-18 season, but there was a light at the end of the tunnel.
The team had their eye on some big free agents, and George was a lock to come to L.A., right?
Little did the Lakers know Paul George had already made up his mind weeks before the previous season had even come to a close. They wouldn’t even get a meeting with the All-Star.
Russell Westbrook announced he was throwing a large mansion party with no expenses spared the night before George could sign a new contract.
Eyebrows were raised in Lakerland…
On June 30th, their worst fears were revealed. Russ brought George on stage, where he would announce to the OKC crowd that he was here to stay. Ironic, and devastating to L.A.
George made it even worse in his post signing interviews, saying things like “had I played one more year in Indy, I would have been in a Lakers uniform,” and “I wanted to come (to LA) a year ago, prior to going to OKC. And, unfortunately, wasn’t traded to the Lakers—Lakers didn’t grab me.”
These comments did the opposite of what George intended. Clearly, he wasn’t as in touch with the Lakers fan base as he used to be when growing up in Palmdale. LA fans were incensed.
To be fair, the team ended up with a pretty good consolation prize. You know, LeBron James.
But it wasn’t enough for George to give the Lakers his talents. It was time to play a hand in making sure other top players didn’t end up in the purple and gold.
Fast forward to the 2019 offseason. The Raptors were just coming off a championship, but their best player was a free agent. Teams began an arms race to employ Kawhi. And whenever there is an arms race, the Lakers are there.
A few weeks into pitching the Klaw, it was reported Leonard had narrowed down his teams to the Lakers, Clippers, and Raptors. The Clips looked like a longshot. Lakers fans were salivating at pairing two of the best small forwards of their generation, not to mention AD, in Staples Center.
Things were all sunshine and rainbows in LaLa Land… kinda.
Well, Leonard did end up in Staples Center, but not exactly how the fanbase envisioned.
The 2019 Finals MVP was sold on coming to Steve Ballmer’s franchise, but only if one important trade occurred: Without Paul George, Kawhi Leonard would not be a Clipper.
George, who just the previous year had claimed he was committed to the OKC cause, demanded a trade to his hometown and received it when the Clippers sent a boatload of picks over to Oklahoma.
To be clear: This is not a hit piece on Paul George. Franchises back down from promises just like players do. Look at Blake Griffin and the very same franchise George committed to. The team literally likened him to revolutionary icons and symbolically raised his jersey to the rafters, then shipped him out to Detroit.
The NBA can be brutal all around.
Anyways, thanks to George’s trade demand and the Clipper’s willingness to sell their future, Kawhi rejected the Lakers and moved in across the hall. For the second time, the hometown kid had shattered his team’s heart.
On the other hand, George has an adoring L.A. fanbase, even if it might not be as loud or as prominent as the Lakers.
And the Lakers are fielding a team with one of the greatest of all time, plus a unibrowed wonder.
So while he might get booed out of the arena on his own home court, George Vs. The Lakers is a battle that will continue for years. We’ll see who ends up with the final word.