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Paul George: Russell Westbrook a Big Reason Why He Stayed with Thunder

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistJuly 27, 2018

Oklahoma City Thunder's Russell Westbrook (0) stands next to teammate Paul George (13) during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

The presence of Russell Westbrook was a major contributing factor in Paul George deciding to re-sign with the Oklahoma City Thunder this offseason.

According to Sam Amick of USA Today, George said that his connection with Westbrook is so strong that the one-time NBA MVP didn't even need to recruit him:

"It wasn't even about him going beyond and being extra [with his efforts]. It was about him being himself, him being genuine, him being authentic, him being real. Nothing about him is fake, and that's the people I want to be around, somebody who's going to tell it like it is, somebody who's going to push you, somebody who's going to encourage you, somebody who's going to motivate you, and vice versa.

"That's how I am. It just felt genuine. It felt like a really strong and great relationship being around him. It didn't take him to recruit me. It didn't take him asking me to be here, asking me to be a part of the team going forward. None of that ever came up."

Per Spotrac, George inked a four-year deal worth nearly $137 million to remain with OKC.

George was asked about his decision to re-sign with the Thunder while he was in Las Vegas for Team USA mini-camp.

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Westbrook was also present, and he cracked the following joke during PG-13's line of questioning: "Tell them the truth. Tell them I'm a bad teammate. That's what they want to hear."

Since George is a Palmdale, California, native, it was long expected that he would sign with the Los Angeles Lakers when he hit free agency.

George didn't even take a meeting with the Lakers, though, and he explained the rationale behind that decision:

"The reason why I didn't [take a meeting] is that coming down to free agency and before it was about to open [on July 1], I felt really good where I was at. I felt I was in a good place with Oklahoma. I wanted to come back to LA. That story was true. The narrative on that was true.

"That's where my heart was. But this year, being in Oklahoma, I felt really good about the situation, I felt really good going forward, and I didn't want to waste nobody's time and take a meeting. And now I'm straddling the fence, putting more stress and more pressure on the situation. I felt good about it. I felt great where we were at, so I decided to do it early, to get it over with, and start to build. I didn't get that chance to last summer, because I got traded late in the summer. So I never got that chance to start fresh, to work to get better with Russ and work to get better with the Thunder. So I wanted to attack that early and get ready for my career."

In his first season with the Thunder, George averaged 21.9 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.0 steals per game en route to his fifth career All-Star nod.

The Thunder did not experience playoff success despite the presence of George and Westbrook, as they were ousted by the Utah Jazz in the first round.

With Carmelo Anthony getting shipped to the Atlanta Hawks for guard Dennis Schroder, OKC will have a different makeup around its two superstars in 2018-19.

Going deep in a Western Conference inhabited by the Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets and Lakers won't be easy, but the combination of George and Westbrook gives the Thunder a chance to win any given night.

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