Paul George openly talked about playing for the Los Angeles Lakers. Magic Johnson openly talked about Paul George playing for the Lakers. One year later, the perfect storm isn’t so perfect but it is a storm. There is messiness being peddled, smugness and hurt feelings.
Let’s start with super salesman Magic Johnson. Allegedly, he is pissed at not being able to convince George in a face to face sit down to settle in Los Angeles. As for Paul George, he is loyal to the team that traded for him more than he is loyal to the place that raised him. Over here is entitlement and privilege. Over there, is faith. In the mess, there is a point. Can everyone just be quiet? Can you keep your desires to yourself?
Remember when LeBron James ditched Miami for Cleveland and everyone was out the loop? Remember when LeBron ditched Cleveland for Los Angeles and the world nearly broke in half. There is something to be said for not airing everything that is on your mind. Play it cool. Clue everyone in on a need to know basis.
George had a good but not great year with the Thunder. He liked what was around him and felt they could contend in 2019. But really, this is what Paul George did. He didn’t jam Magic Johnson. He dissed LeBron James. He openly said he would rather play with Russell Westbrook than LeBron James. Westbrook has been to the NBA Finals one time the last eight years. LeBron has been to the NBA Finals 8 times in 8 years. Russell Westbrook has been to the NBA Finals once. But that is who Paul George preferred.
A few days ago, a person told me that everyone wants to play for the Lakers. The person who said it was not some Los Angeles sycophant but a Chicago native. He was saying something about truth and privilege and entitlement that Paul George proved was a lie.
It’s hard to grasp who the Lakers are as an organization unless you are part of the 1%, the elite. The Lakers have only missed the playoffs 10 times in 70 seasons. 5 of those 10 have been in the Kobe-less era. 85% of the time the Lakers have been in the playoffs. As great as the Warriors have been these last few years, it doesn’t shape shift their organizational history. In Oakland, they have missed the playoffs 30 times. No one comes close to the Lakers privilege.
They have won in the 1950’s (5 titles). They have won in the 1970’s (1 titles). They have won in the 1980’s (5 titles). They won in the 2000’s (4 titles), they won in 2010. Of course they are arrogant enough to think every superstar wants to play for them. When a superstar won’t even walk to the phone to say what’s up, of course they are all into their hurt feelings. How dare Paul George reject them.
George is thinking of George. One of the most compelling pieces of information that he offered is that he likes small town OKC. He likes the pace and the family life. It suits him as he tries to chase title number one. But it also reveals something else about George the man. He’s not equipped for a larger than large market, a city where the Lakers (and USC football) stir the drink. He can’t prefer OKC and at the same time handle the big city stress of the Lakers. Of this, he is very aware.
Magic is confused. He cannot understand someone wouldn’t want to live in Los Angeles and be associated with what he thinks is the greatest organization in sports. It’s that elite way of thinking. Take the biggest challenge there is and see if you have the game, fire, drive and ambition to mold it into a contender.
Paul George was the first to say no to Magic Johnson. He did it with radio silence. George probably didn’t have the cojones to tell Magic face to face I want someone else. Bye. And so he did the easy thing and Magic picked up the angry pieces of glass and soothed himself with the LeBron James meeting.
The Lakers will recover. It is what they do. They were obliterated by the Celtics then Wilt comes to L.A and they win the title. They win the coin toss with the Bulls and Magic anoints a magical era. Magic contracts the HIV virus and the Lakers get Shaq and Kobe. Kobe retires and they get LeBron. They are privileged.
Paul George rejected the pretty girl. Had he said nothing about his intentions, this would have been a story that disappeared. Now it’s is the Paul George saga, how he boldly dismissed the Lakers out of hand. For his benefit. But more likely, it will be his loss.