This offseason has been unparalleled in terms of how many all-stars have changed uniforms and yet the Lakers have been setting their sights on next summer already. After the D’Angelo Russell trade to clear cap space for the 2018 free agent class it is clear the team will look to make a push towards contention next summer. This is a free agent class that could include players like Lebron James, Russell Westbrook, Demarcus Cousins, and Paul George. Of those names, George has been linked to the Lakers on multiple occasions in the last few months and the sense around the league is that he will be joining the purple and gold in free agency.
However, for George, this is not a forgone conclusion. In an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins, the Los Angeles native discussed his new home in Oklahoma City, playing with Russell Westbrook, but most importantly, he talked about the hype surrounding the idea of him playing for the Lakers.
“I grew up a Lakers and a Clippers fan,” George says. “I idolized Kobe. There will always be a tie here, a connection here. People saying I want to come here, who doesn’t want to play for their hometown? That’s a dream come true, if you’re a kid growing up on the outskirts of L.A., to be the man in your city. But it’s definitely been overstated. For me, it’s all about winning. I want to be in a good system, a good team. I want a shot to win it. I’m not a stats guy. I’m playing this game to win and build a legacy of winning. I’ve yet to do that. I’m searching for it. If we get a killer season in Oklahoma, we make the conference finals or upset the Warriors or do something crazy, I’d be dumb to want to leave that.”
There had been reports before his departure from Indiana that George preferred to play for the Lakers once he became a free agent, but this might not be the case if things go well in OKC. With the Lakers being such a young team, they will have to show that those young players can compete on a high level in order to entice stars to come next summer. Magic Johnson believes they will be able to play well enough to put them in the running and having possibly two max contract slots could give the team an advantage when it lacks on-court productivity.
George also touched on what would make the Lakers a realistic possibility for him next summer.
“It’s too early for L.A.,” he says. “It would have to be a situation where the ball gets rolling and guys are hopping on. This guy commits, that guy commits. ‘Oh s—, now there’s a team forming.’ It has to be like that.”
The new front office will have a critical test in the 2018 offseason and being able to add a player of George’s caliber would be a monumental step forward for the franchise.