Paul George is getting a little Heartland hospitality.
The former Indiana Pacers star was traded earlier this month to the Oklahoma City Thunder, and fans down there on Tuesday gave him a little taste of what it means to be part of basketball’s most unique markets.
George made his intentions known to Pacers brass after this season, as he reportedly told the team that he’d be leaving Indiana in free agency next summer.
It angered general manager Kevin Pritchard that George was so forthright about his intentions, as it likely hurt the Pacers in their trade negotiations this offseason, as teams knew the Pacers were likely going to trade him instead of the risk of losing him for nothing in free agency.
Eventually, a couple hours before NBA free agency opened on July 1 this month, the Pacers agreed to trade George to the Thunder for young players Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.
In Oklahoma, George will be paired with league MVP Russell Westbrook and also will be playing in front of some of the most loyal fans in professional sports.
If George needed evidence of that, he got all he needed on Tuesday, when his arrival to the Sooner State was met with fans at the airport, cheering their new star.
George got in on the, greeting the fans through fences that kept the general public away from the arriving passengers.
George said he has an open mind about re-signing with the Thunder in the offseason, especially if the team reaches the NBA Finals, upsetting the Golden State Warriors along the way. In addition, George said he was told positive things about Oklahoma City after checking with former Thunder superstar Kevin Durant, who spent his whole career with the Thunder before leaving for Golden State last summer and winning the NBA title.
George also said rumors about his desire to return home and play for his hometown Los Angeles Lakers next summer are “overblown.”
In Oklahoma City, George will find a capable roster and a fellow superstar in Westbrook. He’ll also be tasked with going up against a loaded group of fellow Western Conference contenders in the postseason.
However, he knows that he can count on one things during his time in Oklahoma City – however long that time proves to be – and that’s unyielding fan support.
They showed that to him first hand, in the flesh on Tuesday afternoon in the Heartland.