The wounds were still fresh in the aftermath of being eliminated by the Utah Jazz in Game 6 on Friday night in Salt Lake City when talk of Paul George’sfuture with the Oklahoma City Thunder was put on the front burner.
After the 96-91 loss to the Jazz ended the Thunder’s season in the first round of the playoffs for the second consecutive season, George was asked directly about his future as he heads to unrestricted free agency.
“It’s too soon,” he said. “I would love to remain a Thunder, but that’s what the summer is for, so we’ll address that in the summer.”
If Saturday’s loss was indeed the final game for George with Oklahoma City, it will not be memorable for George. He scored just five points, flaming out with a 2-of-16 shooting performance, including 0-for-6 from the 3-point line, and added three rebounds, eight assists and one steal in 45 minutes.
That egg-laying came two days after George had fired in 34 points, eight rebounds, two assists, two steaks and a block in 45 minutes in helping the Thunder to a 107-99 win in Game 5 to stave off elimination. George shot 12 of 26 in the victory, playing the entire second half.
The two games were a microcosm of the season for the Thunder.
With 2017 NBA Most Valuable Player Russell Westbrooksigned to a supermax extension, and after trading Victor Oladipoand Domantas Sabonisto Indiana for George — entering the final season of his contract — on July 6, it was clear OKC was going after big game this season.
Acquiring Carmelo Anthonyfrom the Knicks for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermottand a second-round draft choice 81 days later only cemented the Thunder were pushing all of their chips into the pot.
Now, though, it’s all up in the air for the Thunder. George has been long-rumored to be heading home to Los Angeles and the Lakers and Anthony, who struggled mightily in the playoffs, has a $28 million player option he is certain to pick up. Andre Robersonwill be coming off a season-ending knee injury suffered earlier this season in Detroit. Steven Adamsis solid presence in the post.
And, oh, by the way, if George wants to be “The Man,” it’s not going to happen in OKC.
Since 1964, there have been seven games of a player taking 43 shots or more — and Westbrook, who hoisted the rock 43 times Saturday night — has two of them.
In fact, his 43 shots Saturday night, the 43 he took in Game 2 against the Rockets in Game 2 last season and the 39 he attempted in Game 5 against the Jazz represent the three highest single-game playoff totals among active players.
George, while not answering “The Question” in regards to his future, had nothing but good things to say about his first season with the Thunder. It remains to be seen if it will be his only season with them, though.
“It was an amazing season,” he said. “Really, a learning experience playing off Russ, Melo, Steve, seeing what potential is like having Andre out there.
“It was great. It was a lot to be happy about. The fans. The city. The organization. Everything’s been unbelievable.”