Back in June, I wrote about the farce idea of Loyalty in sports. Fans think loyalty is a reality that can alter players’ free agency decisions, but the harsh reality is that loyalty is typically a non-factor. Teams and players are only as loyal as is convenient.
For players, if the money or team trajectory does not match their idea of where it should be, they’ll split. For teams, if the money doesn’t work or the player isn’t who they thought they’d be in their career, they’ll move on.
All of this fairly obvious eventuality is veiled in rhetoric that neither side will ever leave one another. Loyalty is still the party line, and neither blinks until a move is mad, when it suddenly becomes “a business.”
Paul George forfeited loyalty when he forced his way out of Indiana, staunchly choosing one side over the other. The road had two paths and he chose the one more frequently taken. Once a player decides against loyalty, however, he eventually has to return to feigning it, spewing egregiously loving statements about the organization. George has begun to take a different approach, however.
He is forging his own path instead of taking one paved for him. He is recognizing this is a business in Oklahoma City before he has to. He is openly praising Los Angeles, the city to which he is rumored to crave playing for, and he is making no false promises of a future in OKC.
Here are a few things he has said over the last few days: When I asked why he has chosen to be so transparent about his love for his hometown he stated that he “can have love for somewhere. I’m from here (Los Angeles). That’s a no brainer, I’m going to be honest.”
According to Shahan Ahmed of NBC Los Angeles, he said the best thing about the Lakers is: “They have young guys that are potentially going to be big names in this league. They just got to continue to keep working.” He also clearly insinuated that playing in L.A. means a lot to him: “Lakers have the history…that’s who we grew up watching.”
According to Erik Horne of The Oklahoman, George didn’t pretend that his request that the Pacers move him to the Lakers was a mistake: “I have no regrets at all. All that was said was a destination I would have loved to go.”
Finally, he was honest about the fact that no unit stays together forever. He believed that in his younger years, he thought the Pacers would stay together forever. The league hits you with tough realities, whether you are a star or a fringe player.
No matter how you look at it, he is taking the much more sincere stance. People will not suddenly forget that he strongly hinted that he wanted to move to L.A., so why act like his love for the city does not exist?
It cannot be a popular decision in OKC, but they can’t root against him yet, and by the time they can, he will already be gone. He’s not explicitly saying he’s considering buying a mansion in Malibu or making a buddy cop movie with Lonzo Ball, but he’s not completely avoiding the questions.
Paul George already lost the ability to be a lifer in an organization. He will no longer receive the adoration or heroization that the likes of Kobe Bryant, Larry Bird or Dirk Nowitzki do. He has decided that instead of falling back into believing in loyalty, or pretending to, he awill be honest instead.
Finding someone that likes him less because of that honesty would be difficult. The only place you may find some of the few who do is in Oklahoma City.
He did, however, clarify his initial statement to me: “The fact of the matter is I’m from here [Los Angeles] and I love being here, but that has nothing to do with my decision with where I’m going to be playing at the end of the day.”
Maybe that is true, or maybe he’s simply had enough honesty for a one road trip.
The post Paul George isn’t Pretending Loyalty Exists Anymore, and Why Should He? appeared first on Def Pen.