It’s officially summer, which means the start of NBA free agency is upon us, and with it brings a slew of notable names. Less than a week before the annual signing bonanza begins, Sports Illustrated released a leaked script by the Lakers intended to be used for a presentation with Paul George.
Just in time for next week’s meeting—better early than late—the Lakers have quickly adopted this master plan in an effort to attract a top free agent they already had in mind. There’s something going on that Magic Johnson knows about, that we don’t know much about, with a video designed by a storied franchise to make a run at the All-Star swingman in the coming days.
In recent memory, the Lakers have shown a propensity for being unsuccessful in signing big-name free agents. Whether they’ll be successful this offseason and finally turn their dreams to a reality is open to doubt. The intent, however, is do everything possible to make a splash this summer.
Making the move to L.A. makes sense when George flirted with the Lakers and admitted playing back at home would be attractive. But he’s not sure if he even wants to play for the Lakers. He wanted to go back home and play in L.A., but he seems hesitant about accepting any offer from the Lakers. He talked about what it meant to play in front of family and friends in his own backyard.
But it has worked out for George so far with the Thunder, mostly because he’s paired with Russell Westbrook. Perhaps they have a strong relationship and grown together and gelled after just one season. It of course lended a perspective about playing for a championship-caliber team, despite the fact that OKC lost to a very good Jazz team in the playoffs.
The Lakers want to add George badly because he’s a magnet for free agents, and the Thunder don’t want him to leave because he plays a pivotal role. It became blatantly obvious that he found himself in the right place at the right time. An option would be to remain in OKC beyond next season and commit to re-signing with the Thunder. Remember, though, he’s a homer who grew up admiring Kobe Bryant and always dreamed of playing for the Lakers.
At some point, however, he’ll announce where he’ll play next season—either in Oklahoma City or the City of Angels. If the Lakers play their cards right, they could certainly win the sweepstakes. If they say the right things he’d want to hear, they’d talk him out of staying in a small-market town. A career and life decision is hard to make, and this one could shake up the NBA free agency.
The summer for the Lakers all hinges on what George does in free agency. For more than a year, they’ve been connected to the Thunder forward. And the push for a change will most likely have to come through George. It’s going to take more than just talking to him about the glitz and glamour of L.A., something he already knows about.
In their attempt to lure George, Johnson and his good friend Rob Pelinka will have to sit down with George and drag basketball into the conversation instead of pitching branding opportunities to him. They have to hold a meeting to discuss analytics and securing the signature of coveted free agents. They have to disappear into a room, structure a clear agenda and focus on the business side of basketball.
All of this makes you wonder if he would come to L.A. and set off a chain reaction. Indiana traded George to Oklahoma City a summer ago, and he was accepted by the fans there as a star of their own. But now it is perhaps fitting that he becomes an unrestricted free agent by opting out of his $20.7 deal to end up with the Lakers this summer.
There still is much to consider than just staying in Oklahoma City. In an act of desperation, Westbrook may offer a recruiting pitch to coax him into staying. Notwithstanding that he’s undecided about what to do next, pondering whether to leave or stay, George has probably made up his mind by now. There’s no rush for him to tell the world where he’ll play next season, but he surely appreciates the love he gets in L.A. and praises the Lakers young talent.
A little more than a year ago, Johnson presided over the operations of Lakers basketball and promised to assemble a title contender. Here’s a chance for him to stack up with influxes of talent and deliver the goods and make up for Jim Buss’ embarrassing goofs when he had a large influence on personnel decisions.
A drastic overhaul is in the works for the Lakers now that Johnson is running the show. As a man of the show biz, this would seem to be a Magic moment for a five-time champion himself. In this telling, he has a trick or two up his sleeve to conjure away the Lakers’ profound melancholy.
It’s a start if he’s able to make George a Laker.