Paul George summarized his exit from Oklahoma City as a mutual parting from the Thunder, a characterization general manager Sam Presti took umbrage with on Thursday.
"I think the world of PG. I think everybody knows that," Presti said, speaking one day after the Los Angeles Clippers introduced George and Kawhi Leonard. "I know that he had used the term 'mutual.' I wouldn't necessarily agree with that because that would infer that we were wanting to trade Paul George, which I think most people would agree that that probably wasn't on the top of our offseason priority list.
"But I would say that it was not adversarial at all, and I also fully respect the way that it was handled. And the fact that we were able to make it work in a way that benefited the franchise made it something that we could do."
George said at his joint press conference with Leonard in L.A. on Wednesday that the Thunder worked "hand in hand" to work out a "mutual thing between both of us that the time was up and we both had ideas of doing things differently."
Leonard, according to reports, kept the Toronto Raptors and Los Angeles Lakers on hold during the free agency courting period while trying to convince George to demand a trade in order for the two to unite with the Clippers.
The opportunity for the Thunder wasn't entirely one-sided, but losing an All-Star one year into a landmark contract for the small-market team has left a mark Presti expects won't heal quickly. Commissioner Adam Silver has also decried star players forcing their way out of town with time remaining on their contracts.
A similar circumstance took place in New Orleans, where the Pelicans gave up on Anthony Davis, shipping the All-Star center to the Lakers for a package of draft picks and veteran players.
"I wouldn't say that we were going to appease the request simply because it was made, but more than anything, it was because of the fact that we were able to get the return that we did, which then allowed us to accommodate what he was looking for, as well," Presti said. "It wasn't necessarily permission. It was, 'How can we make this work for everyone?' And the reality is, we've seen these situations in other cities. I just don't think for us, we can take that risk, given the lengths that we had gone to to try to keep the run that we started in 2008 together."
Trading George sparked a conversation with All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook, who was traded to the Houston Rockets for Chris Paul and additional draft compensation. Westbrook spent his entire NBA career with the Thunder.
"I think he and the organization came to the same conclusion, that hey, if there's something that makes sense for everybody, then we'll look at that for sure. And we were fortunate that it worked out the way it did," Presti said.
--Field Level Media
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