Paul George won’t come home.
Without even taking a meeting with the Lakers, the Palmdale native committed to stay with the Oklahoma City Thunder, according to a source not authorized to speak publicly. George went to Oklahoma City on Saturday and made his commitment, then stood on a stage at a party hosted by Russell Westbrook and announced his decision to an adoring crowd.
George agreed to a four-year, maximum contract worth $137 million. Players can negotiate and agree to deals but can’t sign a contract until Friday at 9 a.m. PDT.
George forced his way out of Indiana last year by telling the Pacers he planned to become a free agent this summer and sign with the Lakers. The Pacers then refused to trade George to the Lakers, instead sending him to the Thunder where he joined Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony. Even in the days before that trade, George was telling friends he eventually would wind up with the Lakers.
During the season, George spoke openly about how he’d always wanted to play for the Lakers, but also was keeping an open mind about the Thunder. On each visit to Staples Center to play against the Lakers, George was feted by fans; one even wore a customized Lakers jersey with George’s name.
At a news conference before the All-Star game in Los Angeles, fans began chanting “We want Paul!” George smiled. Westbrook heard them and interrupted with a scowl, yelling, “Paul ain’t going nowhere! It’s over for that!”
George said then that he didn’t yet know what he would do.
During one of Oklahoma City’s trips to Los Angeles, Westbrook was asked if he felt that the season was a sales pitch to George. He said no, adding that the sales pitch would be when they won a title.
Instead, the Thunder lost in the first round of the playoffs. But George lauded Westbrook, calling him one of the best teammates he’d had. During the past week, George increasingly seemed to be leaning toward staying with the Thunder.
With George, Chris Paul (re-signed with Houston on a four-year, $160 million deal) and Kevin Durant (re-signed with Golden State on a one-year deal with a second-year player option) all accounted for, by far the biggest free agent remaining is LeBron James, whom the Lakers hope to sign. The Lakers spoke to center DeMarcus Cousins about meeting but no date was set. They likely would be interested in a short-term deal with Cousins, who spent last season with New Orleans and tore his Achilles tendon.
The Lakers spent the last year and a half trying to create salary cap space for this summer. They succeeded in creating enough room to add two contracts at maximum deals provided they make a few maneuvers.
Part of that involves Julius Randle, a restricted free agent who can sign an offer sheet once the moratorium ends that the Lakers would have 48 hours to match.
DeAndre Jordan, who opted out of a $24.1 million deal with the Clippers on Friday, agreed to a similar deal for a little less money to play for the Dallas Mavericks, according to an NBA official not authorized to speak publicly.
Jordan reneged on a free-agent agreement with the Mavericks three years ago and returned to the Clippers. Now he has left the Clippers after 10 seasons to join Dallas. He gives the Mavericks a rebounding and shot-blocking presence they’ve lacked since winning their only title in 2011. Dallas hasn’t won a playoff series since then.
The Clippers will meet with unrestricted free-agent guard Avery Bradley on Sunday, according to an official. Bradley played just six games for the Clippers last season after he was acquired from Detroit in the Blake Griffin trade. Bradley had season-ending surgery to repair abdominal muscles.
The Clippers also will soon meet with guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who played for the Lakers last season, an executive said.
Paul, KD stay put
Paul says he’s staying with the Rockets. The star point guard wasted no time once free agency opened Saturday at 9:01 p.m. PDT. Paul announced on Twitter that he has “Unfinished Business” in Houston, which took Golden State to seven games in the Western Conference finals. Paul missed the last two games of that series with an injury.
Durant, in re-signing with the Warriors, will be paid $30.5 million this season, the Associated Press reports.
In other agreements reported by the AP: Will Barton will re-sign with Denver on a four-year deal worth more than $50 million. Denver also is expected to offer Nikola Jokic a max deal worth around $147 million for five seasons. ... Thunder forward Jerami Grant agreed to a three-year, $27 million deal. ... Rudy Gay is returning to San Antonio on a one-year, $10-million deal. ... Derrick Rose agreed to a one-year deal worth nearly $2.4 million to stay with Minnesota. ... Joe Harris is returning to Brooklyn on a two-year contract. ... Doug McDermott is headed to Indiana on a three-year deal. ... Gerald Green is re-signing with Houston on a one-year, $2.4 million deal.