The Lakers are reportedly no longer locked into trying to make a splash in free agency in 2018. The trade deadline could be quiet for the team which would result in less than the optimal cap space to sign two star free agents as the Lakers intended earlier this year.
Nevertheless, a re-shift in focus does not necessarily mean that the Lakers are no longer in the sweepstakes for Paul George and LeBron James. In fact, George’s recent comments may indicate that they very much are still in the running.
Following via USA TODAY’s Sam Amick:
“Well, I mean I’m happy here,” George said. “I’m happy here. I’m happy with this group. At the end of the season, it’s still on my decision on what I need to do for my family. That has nothing to do with my happiness here though. I’ve been really happy. It’s a great organization to be a part of, but again, you know, I don’t want people looking at this and (saying) like, ’Hey, because he said it’s his happiness at the end of the day (that he’s definitely re-signing).”
“I don’t know if whether I’m going to LA, or what I’m going to do this offseason. But I can say I am happy about being here. I’m happy with playing with Russ, happy with playing with Melo, and this organization. This front office has shown what they can do to go get pieces and how active they are about winning.”
There’s a couple of ways to look at this.
On one hand, George legitimately does seem happy in Oklahoma City. The Thunder began to figure things out from December onwards. Andre Roberson’s injury made for a short slump before they blew out the defending champion Golden State Warriors on Tuesday.
On the other hand, it’s clear that George has not made a decision (nor should he have five months before free agency). More importantly, it’s clear that he still envisions himself playing in Los Angeles. Making an offhand comment about a specific destination speaks volumes. In this case, it’s almost a certainty that the Lakers and Thunder will be the frontrunners to sign the superstar forward.
A lot can change in five months – the Lakers have been closely linked to star free agents before and been unable to sign them. No matter how well they are playing right now, they’re still a young team with a lot of kinks to work out before they can be legitimate contenders. That’s not to mention that George has not exactly been the most prudent speaker in his NBA career.
For now, it’s more hope to grasp onto as the Lakers navigate the trade deadline and free agency under new management.