OKC's Paul George says future is about being with team on rise

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Thursday, January 4, 2018

Paul George isn't looking for a championship as a selling point when he becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer.

The All-Star forward said Wednesday that what matters to him is being on a team pointed in the right direction.

"I've got a lot to think about," George told ESPN before the Oklahoma City Thunder's 133-96 win over the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center. "This summer will be huge. I've got a lot to think about. If we're trending, if we're going in the right direction, if I feel there is something that we're building, and there's a foundation -- it would be kind of clueless, just stupid on my behalf to up and leave.

"I'm very conscious that we're only together for a year so far, and we continue to go in an upward trend. It's best to stick with what we have and work on building. So, I wouldn't say it's championship or bust, or championship and I'm out. It's all about building. If I like where we're building or the level that we're going at, it would be stupid to walk away from that."

George's comments came in response to those made by teammate Russell Westbrook earlier Wednesday. Westbrook, the reigning league MVP, was asked if he needed to make a sales pitch to George to keep him in Oklahoma City.

"No. Sales pitch is gonna be when we win a championship," Westbrook said. "Beat that pitch."

George has been tied to his hometown Lakers for a number of years. That hit a crescendo last summer, when his agent informed the Pacers that George wouldn't re-sign with Indiana and mentioned the Lakers as a desired destination.

Those talks have recirculated this week with the Thunder in Los Angeles for back-to-back games against the Lakers and Clippers.

For his part, George and those close to him have maintained that his main desire with any potential free-agent destination is a chance to win at the highest level. The Thunder are 21-17; the rebuilding Lakers are 11-26.

But Oklahoma City has surged of late, winning seven of its past nine games, and newcomers George and Carmelo Anthony have started to play better alongside Westbrook.

"The biggest change was myself, Melo, telling Russ he has to be who he is," George told ESPN. "All of us were kind of afraid to step on toes, deferring. I felt at times Russ was looking to get others involved when sometimes he has shots that he has to take, and it was throwing everybody out of rhythm. Now he knows that we got his back. We trust him, he trusts us. We got a rhythm. We've all been shooting the ball well lately. We're in a group, we're relaxed, we're comfortable out there."

Information from ESPN's Royce Young was used in this report.

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