LOS ANGELES — At a point during Paul George’s media session in advance of the NBA All-Star Saturday Night events, fans started chanting, “We want Paul” when his face came on the big screen in the room. George let out a brief smirk when he heard them.
When he heard the chants from across the room, Russell Westbrook, George’s teammate on the Oklahoma City Thunder, yelled “Paul ain’t goin’ nowhere. It’s over for that.”
For a brief moment, it appeared the conversation about the idea of George leaving the Thunder in free agency and joining his hometown Los Angeles Lakers had been silenced. After all, when George made his first visit to L.A. this season to play the Lakers, he fielded numerous questions from local media about where he would decide to go this summer.
It was more of the same on Saturday. But this time, George’s comments gave an impression — slight as it was — that his decision has already been made five months before the official start of free agency.
“At the end of the day, I know where my decisions lands, what my decision is,” said George, who scored 16 points and added five rebounds, four assists and a steal in Team LeBron’s 148-145 victory over Team Stephen in Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game. “That’s all that matters.”
Right after that moment, however, George said he did not already know what his decision is. But he again somewhat contradicted himself seconds later.
“I know what I feel is best,” George said. “But it’s a long way until the end of the season.”
George made headlines earlier this season when he said he would have “loved” to join the Lakers if he had not been traded to the Thunder. Generally, he has not been shy about his desire to play for the team where his idol, Kobe Bryant, spent his entire career.
But since he’s joined the Thunder, it’s become increasingly clear that he not only enjoys playing with new teammates Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony, but he seems to be genuinely considering staying in Oklahoma City.
George told ESPN in early January that he has “a lot to think about” in the offseason, and admitted that it would be foolish to leave the Thunder if the team is heading in the right direction after only its first year together.
“This summer will be huge,” George said at the time. “I’ve got a lot to think about. If we’re trending, if we’re going in the right direction, if I feel there is something that we’re building, and there’s a foundation — it would be kind of clueless, just stupid on my behalf to up and leave.”
On Saturday, George eluded to what his priorities would be in the offseason. “I’m not looking to bounce around and play for multiple teams throughout my career,” George said. “The decision I make will ultimately be to build something. It’s the only way it’s gonna be done. So this next decision, whatever it is, is to make sure I’m there for a duration (of time).”
Being that George is from Palmdale and has been vocal about one day wanting to join the Lakers, it would not be a stretch to think he would feel awkward when so many fans of Los Angeles continually clamor for him to join their team.
But George, at least for now, is staying put where he is, despite the rumors and bits of evidence to the contrary.
“There’s no awkwardness,” George said. “I’m a Thunder, and that’s all there is to it. I’m not one foot in, one foot out. I know what team I’m representing and I know that our main goal is.”