Paul George: Free Agency Will Be Easier After Russell Westbrook All-Star Support

Alec Nathan@@AlecBNathanFeatured ColumnistJanuary 25, 2018

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 13:  Teammates Paul George #13 and Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder talk during their game against the Charlotte Hornets at Spectrum Center on January 13, 2018 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Russell Westbrook's public support of Paul George's All-Star candidacy could wind up paying big dividends for the Oklahoma City Thunder in free agency.

On Wednesday, George told ESPN's Rachel Nichols (via ESPN.com's Royce Young) he thought it was "awesome" Westbrook stood up for him after he wasn't named a Western Conference All-Star reserve and hinted that it could simplify the choice he has to make this summer when he hits the open market.

"Russ is the reason why this decision is becoming even more easier to make, is the character Russ [has]," George said. "A stand-up guy, and he has his teammate's back."

Added George: "It was awesome for a teammate to have your back and to stand up. And to be honest, he should be a starter. He's been the MVP, been the best player at his position. He should've been a starter. But that's another story. But the fact Russ had my back, that's my guy forever, and it's more apparent what this decision needs to be made when it comes down to it."

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Westbrook called the decision to leave George out of the midseason exhibition "outrageous." 

"Unbelievable. I think it's just outrageous in my opinion," Westbrook said, per Young. "I don't know who else made the team, but I know you got guys with four people from one team. You got guys complaining about getting snubbed so they get in. You got guys that just talking about it all the time, but the guys that deserve it, should be in, is not. I just don't understand. It doesn't make any sense a guy that leads the league in steals, compete every night, top two in his position, it don't make any sense regardless of anything else."

Royce Young @royceyoung

Russell Westbrook called it “outrageous” that Paul George was not named an All-Star: https://t.co/62vmKKbFSx

In his first season with the Thunder, George is averaging 20.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.1 steals per game while shooting 43.6 percent from the field and 42.2 percent from three.

George has also proved to be a natural fit alongside the reigning MVP.

According to NBA.com's lineup data, the Thunder have outscored opponents by 7.7 points per 100 possessions when George and Westbrook have shared the floor.

On the free agency front, George has been clear for months that he'll prioritize winning above all else.

"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," he told Sports Illustrated's Lee Jenkins in July.

And while the Thunder pieced together an inauspicious 8-12 start to the season, they've meshed of late and are now 27-20 with five straight wins in hand.

They'll attempt to add to that tally Thursday night when John Wall, Bradley Beal and the Washington Wizards pay a visit to Chesapeake Energy Arena.


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