Paul George vs. Warriors

Oklahoma City Thunder's Paul George, right, is defended by Golden State Warriors' Draymond Green during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018, in Oakland, Calif. 

AP Photo / Marcio Jose Sanchez

Basketball fans are used to the way almost any player handles the lead-up to free agency.

Reporters ask about what’s to come in the summer. The player responds that he won’t think about it until July 1. Related questions pepper in throughout the season. Responses remain unrevealing.

For some, it’s a way to keep personal matters personal. Others may actually be able to compartmentalize different aspects of life to a degree that extreme.

“I’ll think about it come the summer.” Or something like that. And that’s it. Move on.

Of course, that’s not Paul George’s style.

“Guys ask a question,” George told The Transcript. “I’m going to give you an answer.”

George has, without question, held true to that philosophy.

He’s gushed over his hometown, Los Angeles, a place where his family still lives. In the process, he’s praised the aura around the Lakers, to whom he requested a trade just before Indiana dealt him to Oklahoma City this past summer.

“You’ve got your stars courtside. It’s a historic building. The energy is great. And it’s a chance to really showcase yourself in one of the highest, best markets,” George said. “It just so happens that that’s home for me. So, there’s family, there’s friends, there’s teachers, people I grew up around. It’s just a nice environment for me."

George hasn’t stopped short in Los Angeles, though, exactly why his upcoming free agency has been so fascinating — and to many, so refreshing — to follow.

Few around the league believed the Thunder had a realistic chance to keep the now five-time All-Star when they agreed to a deal with the Pacers just before the start of 2017 free agency. The Thunder were always hopeful. And now, sentiment around the rest of the NBA has followed.

Whether because the Lakers have struggled (though they’re playing far more impressively of late), because of the drama around the organization or simply because of the way George has talked about his experience in Oklahoma City, where he’s playing on a team that’s turned competent after a slow start, many of those same people believe there’s a shot George remains with OKC.

Maybe it would be on just a one- or two-year deal. After all, it would be financially beneficial for George to become a free agent again in 2020, when he would be a 10-year veteran and thus, would be able to sign the largest type of max contract. Maybe that gives the Lakers time to regain their competence, too.

“I obviously would’ve loved to go home. That was ideal when it was that time,” George told ESPN at the beginning of February. “But now, being here and playing alongside [Russell Westbrook], playing alongside Melo, I feel a real brotherhood with those guys. If we’re here right now, then where can we be next year? Where can we be the year after that?”

The comments reminisced of ones he made only a month before.

"It comes down to just being grateful and happy with where you’re at. You just never know," George said in early January. "I’ve been on a team in Indiana where I thought we’d be together my whole career. You never know. You’ve just got to be grateful and live in the moment. That moment for me is starting again with this group. Being out there with [Carmelo Anthony], with Russ, the talent we have."

And those quotes are just a couple of many. Whether he’s gushing over Westbrook, Anthony or the organization as a whole, there’s something positive.

But that’s George. Suggest a premise to him, and he'll often give you a response that begins with "Absolutely." The Thunder star is about as agreeable and polite as they come.

He admits he doesn’t yet know what he wants to do this summer. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, it’s human. It’s heartening to hear someone who lives such a public lifestyle be so open.

He’s just talking it through with the rest of us. And considering his easy-going persona, the reasoning is simple.

“Up to this point, it’s just speaking what’s going on…That’s all it is,” he told The Transcript. “I’m just speaking on the subject.”


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