By Michael Ford
After years of rumors about his desire to leave Indiana, former Fresno State basketball star Paul George finally got his wish when he was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder in a blockbuster deal.
George, 27, and now in the prime of his career, was reportedly unhappy with the Pacers’ inability to rebuild a team that would be a serious threat to dethrone the Cleveland Cavaliers, who are the reigning NBA Eastern Conference champions led by LeBron James.
The Western Conference is no joke, though, and George might just be in for a rude awakening.
The competition in the Eastern Conference is markedly worse than in the West, and George was still unable to make it to the NBA finals. It certainly will not get any easier moving to the West, despite playing with another great player.
Learning how to play with an MVP like Russell Westbrook presents a challenge that he never had to deal with in Indiana. There will be hiccups along the way.
A team cannot just throw two great players together and expect it to automatically work as if it is some science experiment. It takes time and patience to figure out how to play with someone else who is used to also being the top dog in an organization.
George does not have to look hard to find hints on how the dynamic between him and Westbrook will play out. Former Thunder player Kevin Durant, and now NBA champion with the Golden State Warriors, was thought to have left the Thunder due to his unhappiness playing alongside Westbrook.
This is of particular note for George as he and Durant have similar playing styles. Both thrive on the ability to break down defenders one-on-one off the dribble to score. The problem is, so does Westbrook.
George ultimately will become frustrated with Westbrook as the two are bound to struggle with the dilemma of whom will take the last shot at the end of a close game. George has always been that guy in Indiana, and Westbrook has been the same with the Thunder.
Coexisting with Westbrook on the court is one thing, working on a fruitful relationship off the court is another thing entirely.
Team chemistry is often an overlooked dynamic that can make or break a team. History tells us that having more than one big personality on a roster can ultimately lead to an irreparable rift that manifests itself on the court.
Westbrook and George have also been outspoken at various times in their careers, so do not be surprised if we see more than one instance of the two taking shots at one another through the media, especially if the season does not go according to plan.
With only one year left on George’s contract, if the two struggle to find a happy medium in time, it is almost certain that he will leave Oklahoma City for greener pastures.