‘Paul George My Journey’ in hindsight hints of OKC Thunder return were there all along

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 12: NBA athlete Paul George arrives to the Epic Games Fortnite E3 Tournament at the Banc of California Stadium on June 12, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 12: NBA athlete Paul George arrives to the Epic Games Fortnite E3 Tournament at the Banc of California Stadium on June 12, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

Paul George shocked fans and pundits with his swift decision to re-sign with the OKC Thunder. The finale of his documentary offered definitive answers why.

Part three of the ESPN Paul George documentary aired on Tuesday, July 3rd. While there was no suspense about the decision it did offer great insight behind George’s  choice.

In the finale to the mini three part documentary “Paul George My Journey” the star addressed why he didn’t select the Lakers. Reflecting all the way back to when the Indiana – OKC  trade occurred. At that time,  it was widely believed the Lakers already had George on lock. In fairness, George himself stated he wanted to play for the team he grew up a fan of and in his home town.

What LA didn’t take into account was how comfortable George would become in OKC. George thanked his home town fans for making it clear they wanted him in LA. Yet, he also let the Lakers brain trust know by sleeping on assumption they lost out. George subtlety hinted at the fact he made it clear prior to the trade he wanted to don the Lakers jersey, but because the Lakers didn’t make the trade to acquire him things changed.

(Part one of My Journey above)

It was a risk, but oh the reward:

Sam Presti took a chance this was more than a one year rental when he pulled the plug to send Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis to Indy. That risk paid off. The thing is Presti learned under one of the best franchises while cutting his teeth in San Antonio. He knew how to be genuine and invested and what an amazing community OKC is. Ultimately that knowledge proved correct as George felt wanted in OKC. So much so, he didn’t give any other team a meeting electing to announce within the minutes leading up to the moratorium kick off.

"“I think I really built like a family and a brotherhood in that organization.”"

Although pundits and Lakers Nation felt confident Paul George was all but signed up those paying attention knew differently. Far too many hints were provided leading up to the decision.

Signs were there:

First of all, in his exit interview he spoke of how far the team had come “in just our first year”. We can quibble over semantics, but the implication is there was another season coming. Then there was George’s constant allusions to Andre Roberson. PG loved playing with the notoriously top notch defender.

Like many, PG pointed out how much the team suffered without ARob. And, with George coming close to making the All Defensive team it’s understandable why he felt this way. Simply put, Roberson makes George’s life easier on defense. It’s not like Paul George is averse to getting dirty, but after eight seasons as a pro the wing man arguably has never had a defensive partner of Roberson’s ilk.

(Part two of My Journey above)

The Brodie – PG 13 relationship is a real thing:

As for Russell Westbrook it’s also obvious George is more than happy to be the secondary option to the team’s star. For all the heat Westbrook has taken for being someone players don’t want to play with, the fact George returned speaks to that not being true. Moreover, look at the numerous free agents flocking to OKC for meetings.

If there was any mustard behind this narrative Russ’ peers would be the ones to know. It’s just too small of an industry for reputation not be shared throughout the league. In fact, other than Durant (who has his own issues with acceptance), no previous teammate has anything but positives to share about Westbrook.

Although both players grew up in LA, they weren’t exposed to one another frequently. And, to Westbrook’s credit he went out of his way to develop the relationship off the hardwood. As soon as George arrived he met him and his family at a restaurant. Images of the pair with their significant others out to dinner popped up on social media. As did the now famous post playoff paintball excursion.

But, if I had to point to one specific incidence it would be Westbrook speaking out regarding George not making the All-Star team initially. Some might think that’s no big deal. However, consider the fact by doing so Russ is basically pointing to another player(s) not being as deserving. That’s not something most players want to do. Plus it showed George just how much Westbrook had his back. Pointing to the relevance of this gesture, shortly after Westbrook did this, George made his first public declaration that OKC was in the mix long term.

On Westbrook:

"“Aside from being one of the best human beings I’ve been around, his approach to the game is what guys who want to be a part of and build something with. —So I think with this decision, that makes me much more comfortable knowing I got a shot and a real chance to win with one of the best players in the league."

(Part three of My Journey above)

Championship Desire:

More from Thunderous Intentions

What seems to be intrinsic in the re-signing of Paul George is just how close the pair are both in terms of a relationship and shared goals. For Westbrook to host the event it meant he must’ve asked to do so. It meant cutting his vacation in Hawaii off and flying eight hours to be on site.

This type of bond never existed between Durant and Westbrook off the court. It’s hard to say if Russ learned from his mistakes or this is simply a better fit. Either way, the Thunder are reaping the reward for the pair’s chemistry.

The definitive nature with which George made his decision resonates. Not only did he make the announcement immediately, he did so without extending an interview to any other franchise. And, while I anticipated he would return, I presumed he would do with a two (or three) year contract commitment with an option. The fact he signed for four years showcases precisely how invested the star is.

Notably this term aligns the teams two stars who’ll enter free agency together in three years if they both opt out, four if they opt in.


Finally, George’s comments to the community are also relevant. He’s found a home off the court as much as he has on it. His words were poignant in pointing to the desire to bring OKC their first title.

"“It’s more than just loyalty, it’s about doing what I think is right. I feel this is the best and perfect opportunity to cement myself and bring a championship where it hasn’t been brought. They’ve welcomed me with open arms, and I want them to feel that hype that I have towards what I think we can accomplish there. I want to be part of something that’s special and something that I’ve created."

His closing line offers a heart felt commitment:

"“This is the city and community I chose, and the place I decided to play. And I’m excited, I’m excited to go along this journey and really go all in on this experience.”"

Oh and one more thing. This one falls in the “in case you ever wondered category’  Westbrook is asked in the documentary if he has a tat (tattoo). Russ replies “No, but when we win I’ll get one”.

Next: Complete NBA Free Agency primer for all 30 teams

Here’s hoping the All-Star pair get to make good on their desires and Russ gets to ink his first tat.