Paul George is staying.
It began with an ESPN report that George had returned to Oklahoma City earlier Saturday to attend a Saturday night party, hosted by Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook, near Lake Arcadia. And by 11 p.m., the news that party was teasing became the story itself.
George, the forward who arrived in Oklahoma City from the Indiana Pacers prior to last season, who opted out of the last year of his contract to become a free agent, has committed to signing a new deal with Oklahoma City.
ESPN.com's Royce Young tweeted a few minutes before 11 p.m. that quoted what George was saying at the party.
“I’m here to stay,” George said. “We can bring it home.”
About the same time, ESPN's ultimate NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted the following: “Paul George has committed to sign a deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder, league sources have told ESPN."
If that wasn’t enough, Gabe Ikard, the former Oklahoma lineman and now a sports radio personality, posted a video on his Twitter account in which George, standing on what appears to be a stage, next to Russell Westbrook, said the following: “If you all didn’t quite get it, let me say it again, I’m here to stay.”
It didn’t even stop there.
After 11 p.m., Wojnarowski offered two more reports of interest.
Forward Jerami Grant, also a free agent, will be re-signing with the Thunder, getting a three-year, $27 million deal. Then came the terms of George’s deal. According to Wojnarowski, it is a max deal for four years and $137 million, with a player option after the third year. It had been believed the Thunder were willing to offer even more, a max five-year deal worth $176 million.
What it means is the Thunder’s gambit in trading for Paul in the first place has paid off.
Paul hit the trade market last offseason when he let it be known he would be wanting out of Indiana following last season. That put the Pacers in the position of letting him go for nothing after the season or receiving value for him and saying goodbye a year early.
Indiana chose the latter and picked up Victor Oladipo, who was recently named the league’s Most Improved Player at the recent “NBA Awards Show.”
But if Thunder fans were sorry to see Oladipo catch fire with another team, they had to enjoy George very much in Oklahoma City. He proved durable, playing in 79 of 81 games, averaging 21.9 points and 5.7 rebounds. Additionally, he rated as a very strong defender and shot 40.1 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.
And now OKC will also return Grant, who averaged 8.4 points and 3.9 rebounds and improved considerably over the course of last season.
The Thunder will pay precipitously for their talents, busting well past the league’s salary cap and triggering extreme luxury tax costs along the way.
Nevertheless, Thunder general manager Sam Presti with, perhaps, the exception of Carmelo Anthony, who chose to stay and be paid $27.9 million rather than leave, will be putting the players on the floor he wanted on the floor.
It began with talk of a party Saturday evening. Before midnight had struck, the Thunder had shocked the NBA world.