The basketball world is waiting for LeBron James to opt in or out with Cleveland by Friday. Once the King makes his move the free agency period will officially begin. Paul George, however, isnt waiting another minute and hes not waiting on LeBron to get his move to LA underway.
The former Oklahoma City Thunder star has informed franchise officials that he will not be opting in for the final year of his contract and will become an unrestricted free agent, league sources told ESPN.
George has an 11:59 p.m. ET Friday deadline to formally decline to opt in, but hes not going to milk the suspense like LeBron James tends to do. Word is, George, who will decline a $20.7 million salary for the 2018-19 season, still remains interested in returning to the Thunder in free agency, but hes giving the Laker serious consideration as well, especially if they can secure LeBron James.
Paul George knows: you can’t win a championship if I’m your best guy. But he also knows the best guy to be the #1 to my #2 is LeBron James.” @getnickwright on report that PG informed OKC he’ll opt out & become UFA https://t.co/9hSSMUzbuA
Several other teams, including Philadelphia and Houston, are interested in pursuing George too but have no more than an outside shot of making that happen.
Before George was traded to OKC last summer and developed a strong bond with former MVP Russell Westbrook, the former Pacers star had told Indiana that he planned to sign with the Lakers in free agency this summer. Everyone assumes that’s his plan and Magic Johnson knows that George is a key chip in his mission to build a Lakers Superteam. The Thunder hierarchy is still trying to convince George to stay.
All is not lost for the Thunder’s hopes on Paul George. https://t.co/tkaFe8LpBz
George and LeBron James are the focus of the Lakers’ free-agent recruiting efforts. In the meantime, the Lakers also are feverishly working to pull off a trade for disgruntled San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard.
It might just all come down to the numbers.
George is eligible to sign a five-year, $176 million contract extension this summer with the Thunder, but a shorter contract could allow him more control over his future and thats another option.
George could also do a “one-plus-one” contract with OKC and return to free agency in the summer of 2019. George will reach 10 years of service in 2020, making him eligible to sign a four-year, $169 million maximum contract with a team with cap space.
George wants to go to LA but he cant appear desperate either. OKC doesnt want him to go as that would effectively end their Big Three and as far as the Lakers are concerned, hes one of several pieces they need to acquire, but probably the least important when you bring James and Leonard into the fold.
If this free agency is a chess match then George just made the first move. Let the games begin.