In the summer of 2018, Lakers fans dreamed of a star duo joining their franchise in free agency and leading their storied franchise back to their traditional place atop the NBA hierarchy. It all seemed to line up perfectly too, with free agents LeBron James and Paul George both interested in heading to LA; the former was focused on growing his media empire there and the latter wanted to return to the area where he grew up.
Then the unthinkable happened. After LeBron signed with the Lakers, George opted to re-sign with the Thunder. George said at the time it was because he loved the franchise and playing with Russell Westbrook, but after forcing a trade to the Clippers a year later, it was clear LeBron was the reason PG13 didn't sign with the team he grew up rooting for and instead opted to go to their cross-town rival.
At the time, it was a seemingly-devastating loss for the Lakers and indictment on James, who other stars suddenly didn't want to play with. As it turned out, it was the best thing that ever happened to LeBron.
Now teamed up with good friend Anthony Davis, who the Lakers traded for last offseason after striking out with other All-Stars in free agency, LeBron and the Lakers are rolling. They are the top seed in the Western Conference playoffs and lead their opening-round series against the Portland Trailblazers 2-1. A big reason why they're having this success is Davis.
Beyond the 29.3 points, 11 rebounds and 2 blocks he's averaging per game this postseason, Davis is the perfect complement player for LeBron. He's a dominant defender who shuts down the middle of the court, allowing LeBron to save his energy for the offensive end. Davis is also great on the pick-and-roll, with the ability to get to the rim or shoot from deep, thus stretching the floor and giving LeBron more room to drive. Most importantly, Davis isn't shrinking from the moment in the playoffs. You know who is? Paul George.
George has shot 10-of-47 during the Clippers last three games and has basically become a non-factor on the offensive end of the field. In Game 4 of their series against the Mavericks, he missed an easy layup that would have given the Clippers a 4-point lead in overtime. Instead, he clanked the bunny and the Mavericks won the game.
This isn't the first time George has disappeared in the playoffs either. He went 2-of-16 in an elimination game the Thunder lost in 2018 and shot on 38.6 percent from the field when the Pacers were swept in the first round of the 2016-17 playoffs by LeBron and the Cavs.
While George does play good perimeter defense, the last thing LeBron needs is someone who vanishes on the offensive end of the floor in the playoffs. We've seen what happens when LeBron doesn't have help on offense in the past and the reality is LeBron is good enough to carry a team during the regular season, but like many greats, he needs a talented No. 2 to win a title. It's too early to say George can't be that No. 2 for his teammate Kawhi Leonard, but right now it doesn't look good.
It was a nice story imaging LeBron and PG13 teaming up and leading the Lakers to their 17th NBA title. But ultimately it didn't work out because George apparently didn't want to play with LeBron. Whether that was because of the increased pressure that comes with playing alongside one of the best players in NBA history or something else is a moot point now. What matters now is that it worked out for LeBron, even if it felt like a big blow back in 2018.