PAUL George received a warm Oklahoma City welcome as he was greeted at an airport by a raucous crowd Tuesday (Wednesday, Manila time) on the eve of his formal introductory news conference as part of the Thunder.
While many OKC fans are still stinging from Kevin Durant's departure last season, George revealed that the former Thunder star had nothing but kind words for the team, the organization and the community.
"KD was like, 'That place will blow you away,'" George told Sports Illustrated, adding that Durant has told him Oklahoma City is a “first-class organization in every way.”
The Los Angeles area native George also acknowledged that joining a hometown team would be a “dream come true” but dismissed talks that he's on a one-year rental to OKC and that his reported desire to play in Los Angeles has “definitely been overstated.”
“For me, it’s all about winning,” George told SI. “I want to be in a good system, a good team. I want a shot to win it. I’m not a stats guy. I’m playing this game to win and build a legacy of winning. I’ve yet to do that. I’m searching for it. If we get a killer season in Oklahoma, we make the conference finals or upset the Warriors or do something crazy, I’d be dumb to want to leave that.”
"It’s too early for L.A.,” he added. “It would have to be a situation where the ball gets rolling and guys are hopping on. This guy commits, that guy commits. ‘Oh s---, now there’s a team forming.’ It has to be like that.”
George, however, was thrilled to join an OKC team led by MVP Russell Westbrook after admitting that his championship window with the Indiana Pacers was closed, prompting his decision to inform the team he was leaving at the endo of his contract.
Such a decision prompted the Pacers to deal him to the Thunder in a swap for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.
“I’m thrilled. All I was asking for was a little help in Indy. Now I’m getting a lot of help in Oklahoma,” said George, who also joins a Thunder team with defensive specialists in Andre Roberson and Steven Adams along with new recruits Raymond Felton and Patrick Patterson in a bid to regain title contender status.
"Being a knock-down shooter, I think I can spread the floor for him and run the floor with him. But I also think I can help get him easier opportunities, being able to drive and dish the ball out, so he can attack guys closing out on him," he added on playing with Westbrook. "Our defense is going to be insane."
The acquisitions of Patterson and Felton add depth and experience to Oklahoma City in a year-long pitch to form a contender and persuade George to stay. Oklahoma City relied heavily on youth last season and lost one of its most experienced players when 32-year-old forward Taj Gibson signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
“Sometimes having youth is a good thing, but sometimes it can hurt in big games,” Felton said in his introductory press conference on Tuesday. “It can hurt in big situations. Experience, I think, helps a whole lot. But I think the main thing me and Patrick are going to bring to this team is just all-out competitors, guys who just want to win.”