The Oklahoma City Thunder made one of the biggest and most-surprising moves of the NBA free-agency period when they traded for Indiana Pacers star forward Paul George, sending Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis to the Pacers to complete the deal.
On Tuesday, when George arrived in Oklahoma City, dozens of fans greeted him at the airport in a touching welcome for the new Thunder star.
The OKC Instagram account tweeted a video of the welcome party, showing their excitement to have PG-13 in town and welcoming him to the squad.
Even MVP guard Russell Westbrook was excited to see George in Oklahoma and left a comment on his team’s video praising OKC fans for showing up at the airport to greet the former Pacers star:
In the comments section of the post, Westbrook sent a message to OKC fans and PG-13, saying “Best fans in the world !! Welcome PG” in response to his team’s video of George’s arrival.
Westbrook isn’t just giving undeserved praise to his home fans, though, as even former OKC star Kevin Durant, who had a very messy split with the Thunder last season when he left for the Golden State Warriors, said PG-13 would love playing in Oklahoma City.
George told Sports Illustrated that KD reached out with a message of support and heavily praised his former organization:
“KD was like, ‘That place will blow you away,'” George said. “He told me, ‘They can offer what other teams can’t in terms of the people and the preparation and the facility, down to the chefs and the meals.’ He was pretty high on them. He thought it was a first-class organization in every way.”
Those words will likely carry a lot of weight with George, as Durant was heavily booed by OKC fans when he returned to face the Thunder as a member of the Warriors.
It’s safe to say George can expect the same treatment when he returns to Indiana, but he said he tried to handle his departure from the Pacers as well as he possibly could:
“There’s no right way to handle it,” George says. “I get the frustration. I get why people are upset. But at the same time, I want the average fan to understand that we only get a small window to play this game and more than anything you want to be able to play for a championship. I wanted to bring that to Indiana. I really did.
“I love Indiana. That will always be a special place for me and I’m sorry for not holding on. But I wasn’t sure we’d ever get a team together to compete for a championship and that’s where all this came from.”
By teaming up with Westbrook, George definitely has a better chance to win a title in OKC than he did in Indiana. But, with the way the Western Conference has improved this offseason, it’ll still be incredibly difficult for the Thunder to make it to the NBA Finals.