OKLAHOMA CITY — Paul George feels “a real brotherhood” with Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony, he told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols in a sit-down interview, which aired Sunday.
Talk of the Los Angeles Lakers has surrounded the five-time All-Star, who will become a free agent at the end of this season. The Lakers are not only George’s hometown team. He also requested to be traded there when he informed the Indiana Pacers he would not be re-signing come 2018 free agency.
George has, however, been complimentary of the Oklahoma City Thunder since the team traded for him over the summer.
“I obviously would’ve loved to go home. That was ideal when it was that time,” George told Nichols. “But now, being here and playing alongside Russ, playing alongside Melo, I feel a real brotherhood with those guys. If we’re here right now, then where can we be next year? Where can we be the year after that?”
The Thunder have progressed to 30-24 after a rocky 8-12 start to the season, though they have lost four consecutive games, bringing them to 1-4 since starting shooting guard Andre Roberson went down for the season with a ruptured left patellar tendon.
Still, Oklahoma City owns the NBA’s No. 5-ranked defense and No. 11-ranked offense, a massive improvement since the season's viscous start. George and Anthony have found roles next to Westbrook in that time. And the Thunder actually own the league’s No. 3 offense in 26 games since Dec. 17. They’re 17-9 over that time.
The Lakers, even have beating the Thunder on Sunday, have struggled, and talk of them bringing in multiple max free agents this summer, while still certainly possible, is not as emphatic around the NBA as it was at the start of the year. Part of that is because people aren’t as pessimistic about the Thunder’s chances of re-signing their best two-way player.
“Of course, LA is home, so that’s always going draw the attention. But we’ll see. I won’t rule anything out, but I’m definitely happy where I’m at,” George said to ESPN. “I like where we’re going, and I want to see how this unfolds.”
• Uncertainty: Thunder coach Billy Donovan said he's “not sure” who will start against the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday. Rookie wing Terrance Ferguson has started OKC’s last five games in place of Roberson. He has gone scoreless in four of them and is a total of 0 of 4 from the field over 68 minutes played during that time.
“I have to evaluate. We’ve lost four in a row,” Donovan said. “My job is to try to look at what’s best for our team. I’m not saying I’m going to [change the starting lineup], but I think I have to look at all those things right now.”
• Trade rumors: The Thunder have expressed interest in Utah Jazz shooting guard Rodney Hood, Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune reports.
Most teams expected the Thunder to be aggressive heading into Thursday’s trade deadline even before Roberson’s injury. Now, Oklahoma City is trying to fill a hole at starting shooting guard.
Utah has been shopping Hood, who will be a restricted free agent this summer, for a few weeks now. The Jazz guard is not the same style player as Roberson, but is still a long, 6-foot-7 shooting guard who can create his own offense and is averaging 16.4 points to go with 39 percent 3-point shooting this season.
He is on the books for $2.4 million. The trade deadline is Feb. 8.
Fred Katz is the Thunder beat writer for the Norman Transcript and CNHI Oklahoma as well as the host of the postgame show, Thunder After Dark, and the OKC Dream Team, a weekly Thunder podcast that runs every Tuesday. Follow him on Twitter: @FredKatz.