LOS ANGELES — With Paul George‘s impending free agency a topic at shootaround Wednesday as the Oklahoma City Thunder prepped for the Los Angeles Lakers, Russell Westbrook said he doesn’t feel the need to make any sales pitches to his superstar teammate.
“No, sales pitch is gonna be when we win a championship,” Westbrook said. “Beat that pitch.”
For a number of years, talk has circulated about George being tied to his hometown Lakers. That crescendoed when his agent this past summer informed the Pacers that George wouldn’t re-sign with Indiana and mentioned the Lakers as a desired destination.
When asked about what happened Tuesday in Oklahoma City, before he made the trip to Los Angeles, George said he has no regrets about the Lakers connection being public.
“Nah, no regrets at all,” he said. ‘All that was said was a destination that I would love to go to. There wasn’t a, ‘Hey, gun pointed to the head, send me here.’ I just stated somewhere I wanted to go play. You ask 80, 70 percent of guys in the league if they would love to go back home and play for their city, play for their home, that’s all I stated that I would’ve loved to go back home and play for my city. So no regrets at all, no regrets at all.”
George, and those close to him, maintain his main desire with any potential free agent destination is a chance to win at the highest level. Entering Wednesday, the Thunder sit at 20-17; the rebuilding Lakers are 11-25.
“It comes down to being just grateful and happy where you’re at,” George said of evaluating future options. “You just never know. I’ve been on a team in Indiana where I thought we’d be together my whole career, but you just never know. You’ve got to be grateful and live in the moment, and that moment for me is starting to get with this group. Being out there with Melo, with Russ, the talent that we have, you’re in that moment, living in that moment, and it’s crazy to think where we can get to the more we build. We’ve only been together a couple of months and you’ve got to think of the bigger picture when it comes to a situation like this.”
George grew up in Palmdale, which is about 60 miles north of Los Angeles. He actually grew up a LA Clippers‘ fan, drawn to Baron Davis, Darius Miles and Lamar Odom, but Kobe Bryant was always his favorite player.
The Thunder are in Los Angeles this week to play back-to-back games at Staples Center — against the Lakers on Wednesday night, and then the Clippers on Thursday.
“You’ve got your stars courtside, it’s a historic building, the energy is great,” George said of playing games in LA. “And it’s a chance to really showcase yourself in one of the highest, best markets. It just so happens that that’s home for me, so there’s family, there’s friends, there’s teachers, people I grew up around. It’s just a nice environment for me.”
But while Westbrook may not be thinking about a recruiting pitch, Lakers (and Clippers) fans most definitely are.
“This story is always going to be here,” George said. “It is what is. That’s not my focus. I could care less about the attention that it draws. We’ve got two games to win in LA. I’m excited to play in front of family and friends, and I’m excited to do it with the team that I have.”
ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne contributed to this report.