Paul George will be playing extremely well at the National Basketball Association All-Star Game today — or at least he’ll want to, and not just because he traces his roots to the host city. He stunk up at joint the Three-Point Shootout yesterday, never mind the obvious leanings of the Staples Center crowd; he couldn’t even reach double figures, his poor output belying his regular-season prowess from beyond the arc and making his calm demeanor look more like indifference. Perhaps he felt the pressure of delivering the goods, especially after fans made no secret of their desire to welcome him off free agency in June.

Thunder teammate Russell Westbrook would have none of the overtures, of course. Media Day had George being feted with cheers from behind the convention hall, prompting the reigning league Most Valuable Player to declare: “That’s out. Paul ain’t going nowhere. It’s over for that.” For the record, the five-time All-Star hasn’t yet made up his mind. “I know what I feel is best,” he said, “but it’s a long way until the end of the season.” Which is to say he won’t commit until he sees where he can best secure his future.

It’s good policy, to be sure. For George, his next stop may well be his last. “I’m not looking to bounce around and play for multiple teams throughout my career,” he disclosed. “The next decision, whatever it is, is to make sure I’m there for a duration.” In other words, he’ll be focusing on the here and now, and only after the dust of his 2017-18 campaign settles will he consider the then and there.

First things first, really, and it’s to erase the embarrassment of his pathetic showing yesterday, one in which even Westbrook couldn’t help but laugh at. And then after hopefully giving a good account of himself for Team LeBron today, he figures to be pumped heading into what he envisions as a deep run in the playoffs. After all, while, in his words, “it feels good to be welcome,” he has the hardware in his mind. And his quest for a championship will, no doubt, influence his career choice.


Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is the Senior Vice-President and General Manager of Basic Energy Corp.