Paul George is savvy enough to understand the frosty reception he received from his people was just business and nothing personal.
The Oklahoma City Thunder forward told ESPN’s Royce Young he enjoyed the boos that Los Angeles Lakers fans showered him with Wednesday night at Staples Center.
Fans jeered the Southern California native every time he touched the ball during OKC’s 107-100 win, presumably because he rejected the Lakers last summer in free agency in order to re-sign with the Thunder.
George reportedly upset the Lakers by declining to meet with them before deciding to return to the Thunder, and fans in purple and gold took it out on him during his first visit of the season. However, the vocal crowd also might have fueled George’s desire to perform, as he scored 37 points in the victory.
“It was fun, it was fun,” George said of the boos. “I look forward to the second time, later this season, where I’ll be booed (in Indiana), and that’s in the Midwest. It was fun. I enjoyed it regardless. The booing wasn’t going to throw me off my game. I’ve been playing basketball for a really long time and a little booing and a little noise is not going to make me forget how to play basketball.”
Having spent his first seven NBA seasons with the Indiana Pacers, George had been linked to the Lakers for some time before the pivotal summer of 2017, when Indy traded him to the Thunder ahead of his contract year. George said multiple times prior to his arrival in OKC that the Lakers were his preferred destination in free agency, but one enjoyable season with the Thunder changed his mind.
After recruiting him for ages, ultimately in vain, Lakers fans now treat George as a hostile stranger in a familiar place — not that it bothers him.
“I’m not the only SoCal kid from this area that didn’t play here,” George said. “But I took it with respect. This is an unbelievable organization. (I have) the utmost respect for everybody in their (front) office, for this city. You know, I’m a SoCal native. It’s always love here, regardless of the boos tonight. I mean, it is what it is. I came out here, I played my heart out and I just have fun with it.”
Thumbnail photo via Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports Images