Report: There's a "growing belief" that Paul George could stay with the Thunder

Oklahoma City Thunder v Utah Jazz - Game Three

Paul George's impending free agency has been a major topic all season and we are now just weeks away from discovering where his future lies.

The 28-year-old was traded by the Indiana Pacers to the Oklahoma City Thunder last summer after he informed the franchise of his desire to leave as a free agent this year.

At the time, George informed the Pacers that he wished to be traded to the Los Angeles Lakers as he wanted to return to his hometown.

It has been widely believed for the last 12 months that the five-time All-Star will sign for the Lakers next month.

But after spending a season with OKC, that is now not a foregone conclusion.

According to Marc Stein of The New York Times, the Thunder "has a far better chance to retain the free agent-to-be [George] than many believed when the Thunder crashed out of the first round of the playoffs."

That became more apparent after the veteran underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his left knee last month and posted a photo from his hospital bed of himself in good spirits.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Utah Jazz - Game Six

Stein reports that his willingness to publish that picture on his Instagram account has "helped fuel the notion" that he wants to remain with the Thunder.

Revealing an image after undergoing an operation can be seen as a risky move for a free agent as it could deter potential suitors if there are question marks about his health.

But it's clear that OKC is willing to keep him regardless and this could've been an indication that George might be staying as he wasn't afraid to share the image and worry about any consequences.

Utah Jazz  v Oklahoma City Thunder - Game Five

He has spoken highly of the franchise since the moment he arrived in Oklahoma City and declared he'd "love to remain a Thunder" even after they suffered a disappointing opening round exit to the Utah Jazz in the postseason.

The All-NBA forward has also developed a close bond with Russell Westbrook since he came and they've spent a lot of time together already during this offseason.

That relationship between the two could prove to be a major factor in his decision, according to Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Golden State Warriors

“Paul George has become really close to Russell Westbrook and I think that’s a relationship that you can’t quantify. I think that means a lot for the Thunder franchise," he said.

"They might be bonding better than Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook did during Kevin Durant’s free agency. They’re spending a lot of time just, you know, doing what friends do. That could go a long way for Oklahoma City as it goes into July 1.”

With that all-important date now looming, we'll soon discover if PG13 sees his future in OKC or elsewhere.

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