Westbrook Responsible For George's Return

The Oklahoman's Erik Horne discussed Paul George's decision to remain with the Thunder, among other topics

JRSportBrief
July 05, 2018 - 3:58 pm
Paul George and Russell Westbrook

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Paul George signed a four-year, $137-million deal to remain in Oklahoma City, and one must wonder if Russell Westbrook’s party prior to free agency swayed him in that direction.

"You don't start hearing things about the Thunder until it's in the bag. You don't hear about it for months in advance,” The Oklahoman’s Erik Horne said on Ferrall on the Bench. "So once we started getting the word that they were having this party, it looked kind of like it would be ridiculous that they would hold a party on the chance that he would re-sign. So once we heard about the party, it was like, 'Okay, this thing's probably going down.' And I think they knew well in advance that Paul was on board."

George’s three-part documentary, My Journey, chronicled his decision and referenced his interest in playing with Russell Westbrook. 

“Look, the guy's going to make a ton of money, regardless of where he's at,” Horne said. "He has the potential to make more with the Thunder. But to me, it seemed like it was a comfortable thing for him to do. I think that he really forged a bond with Russell Westbrook, and I think that that's probably one of the most surprising things that people kind of doubted. . . . But this guy wants to play with him, and he wants to chase the championship with him. It's going to be tough, because the Warriors are really, really good, and this Thunder team didn't get much better. But they've got four years to figure it out."

Ferrall said that he thought James Harden and Kevin Durant enjoyed playing with Westbrook. He didn't understand how playing with someone good was a bad thing, as it elevates your own talent and the game as a whole. 

“Yeah, well, James Harden wanted to be here,” Horne said. “That was a combination of things, the money situation. I don't think the Thunder felt completely sure about investing long-term in him because of some of the awkward habits.

"I think that Durant, those guys are kind of like wind and water, Westbrook and Durant, in terms of their personalities,” Horne continued. “I think for eight years they did a tremendous job. They were one of the best tandems in the league and I think that Durant just saw an opportunity to . . . make his life easier in terms of the on-court stuff."

Ferrall likened Carmelo Anthony to the girlfriend that brings her friend along with her on the date, as the third wheel that just makes everyone uncomfortable. He asked if Horne agreed.

"Well, the money's always going to be uncomfortable, at the most for another year,” Horne said. “But those guys have a good relationship with Melo. The problem is he's just not the player he used to be. He’s not a great defender, his game is relatively inefficient when it comes to the isolation stuff in the post, and he was an okay three-point shooter."

Horne went on to say that with continuity, Melo might improve his 3-point shot. It's just a question of whether the Thunder want to take that chance – and if they want to pay for it. Ferrall questioned whether improvement at that age is really feasible.

"Yeah, it's true, because the first, probably, 20 games of the season, first month-and-a-half or so, nobody on that team could make a shot,” Horne said. “Literally no one could make a shot. And all of a sudden, they get to like mid-December, and Melo's just hitting everything. I mean, at its best, it was really something to watch and it was fun. . . . So, at its best, you saw it was something that was capable of being a really powerful team."

Ferrall asked Horne about the rumors that the team might buy out Melo. 

"I'm sure they've considered every single option, but it's a matter of how comfortable they feel Melo is coming back and fulfilling the role that they want him to fill,” Horne said. "You know, they have until August 31st to stretch that contract out, so they've got some time to sit down and talk with him and figure it out. They probably get Westbrook and Paul George incorporated in those talks too."

Ferrall expressed his not-so-positive take about the team signing Nerlens Noel, a player that he says lacks work ethic. 

"That's the big question. The work ethic,” Horne agreed. "When that guy puts in the work, he's certainly capable of being a really talented rotation player for a number of teams. He's athletic, he can run to the rim and pick and roll. That's something that just fits right into what Russell Westbrook likes to do."

For a low price, Horne thinks that Noel was worth the gamble.