Paul George makes his first appearance as an opponent at Staples Center this season when Oklahoma City takes on the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday and then the Clippers on Thursday night. This will likely be the only two times he plays at Staples Center this year, but if PG-13 has it his way, he could end up on the West Coast after this season.
George has been outspoken about his desire to play in Los Angeles, for his hometown Lakers team, donning the same purple and gold his idols wore while he watched them growing up in Palmdale, Calif. He can, and is expected to, exercise his player option and opt out of the final year of his contract and enter unrestricted free agency this summer.
And while Oklahoma City could make a compelling case for George to say — should they, say, win a championship this season — the star wing has made it clear that his preferred place to play is at home in front of his friends and family.
A history of Paul George and the Lakers
He grew up a Kobe Bryant fan
Before George was PG-13, he was Paul George, No. 24. No. 24 was an obvious salute to Kobe Bryant, but much like Kobe, George switched his number mid-career just before his Team USA leg injury.
He told the Pacers he wanted to play in L.A.
In mid-June, George told the Pacers he would not re-sign in Indiana when his free agency arrives in 2018 and that his preferred destination was to play in Los Angeles. The rumors of George to the Lakers swelled when Magic Johnson, one of George’s favorite players as a child, took over as team president in March.
The Lakers were fined for tampering with George
In late August, the Lakers were fined $500,000 for violating the league’s anti-tampering rules and initiating in contact with George against the NBA’s guidelines. The league said the tampering stemmed from inappropriate communications between Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka and George’s agent, Aaron Mintz.
PG-13, though? Per The Los Angeles Times’ Tania Ganguli, George thinks it started with his conversations with Lakers assistant coach Brian Shaw and said those conversations were mostly about fishing.
Multiple sources tell ESPN that the league investigation found no evidence of tampering as it relates to Brian Shaw and Paul George. The league investigated their relationship this summer. Today George also publicly denied there was tampering in his... https://t.co/hhtnlqmoZU— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) January 3, 2018
But Shaw used to be an assistant coach in Indiana under ex-head coach Frank Vogel, and George credited his mentor for helping shape him into a perennial All-Star, according to the Orange County Register.
He and Shaw also used to talk, at length, about Kobe. Via the O.C. Register:
George considered Shaw “a direct line” to former Lakers star Kobe Bryant after playing together from 1999-2003. Shaw told George countless stories about Bryant’s habits, including his 5 a.m. workouts and how he challenged teammates.
While in OKC, George is still talking about L.A.
Hours ahead of OKC’s matchup against L.A., George doubled down on why playing back home was so important to him — citing friends and family — while reportedly heaping praise on Lonzo Ball. He also gave the Lakers the edge over playing for his hometown Clippers team, according to NBC Los Angeles’ Shahan Ahmad, because of their storied history.
Paul George made it clear playing back home means a bit more because of family & friends, offered HIGH praise for Lonzo Ball & said Lakers have history over Clippers, so it's not the same thing.— Shahan Ahmed (@shahanLA) January 3, 2018
"Lakers have the history...that's who we grew up watching."
He also clarified his comments on when informing the Pacers he wanted to leave.
Pretty candid stuff from Paul George about L.A. with Lakers and Clippers coming up. Says he has no regrets about Lakers popping up as trade destination when he was with Pacers: pic.twitter.com/1j2bqmRc8m— Erik Horne (@ErikHorneOK) January 2, 2018
“All that was said was [Los Angeles] is a destination that I would love to go to,” he said. “There wasn’t a gun pointing to the head, send me here. I just stated somewhere I wanted to go play. You ask 80, 70 percent of the guys in the league if they would love to go back home and play for their city, play in front of their home. That’s all I stated, that I would love to go back home and play for my city.”
George makes his first appearance as an opponent at Staples Center on Wednesday at 10:30 p.m. ET against the Lakers and at the same time on Thursday against the Clippers. If you’re a fan of either Los Angeles team, this might be a good time to tune in.
It could be a first-hand view of what the future might look like.