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Report: Paul George to opt out of contract with Thunder, become free agent

Paul George

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George has decided to opt out of the last year of his contract, becoming an unrestricted free agent, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

George will decline a $20.7 million salary for the 2018-19 season, and while the Thunder remain intent on signing him to a long-term deal, the Los Angeles Lakers pose a problem as George’s other potential choice.

Teams like the Houston Rockets and the Philadelphia 76ers also have interest in the forward, but are lower in the pecking order.

George requested a trade from the Indiana Pacers last season, as his camp pulled a stunt, telling teams around the league that if they tried trading for George, he would be nothing but a “one-year rental,” with no intentions of re-signing anywhere other than with his hometown Lakers.

Things have changed in a year’s span, with the 6-foot-9 forward developing a friendship with co-star Russell Westbrook, which leads to him giving the Thunder serious consideration, despite a relatively quick exit in the first round of the playoffs.

George is eligible to sign a five-year, $176 million contract extension with the Thunder this offseason — though that is a rather less likely scenario than a shorter contract that could give him more control over his future.

The Palmdale native could do a “one-plus-one” deal and revisit free agency next summer, allowing him to further test this team’s potential over the course of the 2018-19 season. George will become a 10-year veteran by 2020, making him eligible to sign a four-year, $169 million maximum contract with any team with the cap space to absorb it.