THUNDER: The biggest winner from the day George, OKC spent in LA, was not the team, but Oklahoma City itself

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

Oklahoma City Thunder's Paul George reacts after making a basket during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019, in Los Angeles. The Thunder won 107-100.

Tonight, they’re in Portland.

However, two nights ago, the Thunder were in Los Angeles, and it was something akin to a perfect storm.

What it was, was a priceless advertisement for Oklahoma City.

And, by Oklahoma City, we mean Oklahoma City. We do not mean the Thunder. Though it was a good night for them, too.

The Thunder dominated the fourth quarter to plow through the Los Angeles Lakers 107-100.

About the only bad news was Russell Westbrook’s shooting, which in his last three games has been 4 of 22, 13 of 24 and 3 of 20, a run of numbers that couldn’t seem more impossible.

Yet, the theme of the day in LA, a theme the Lakers might have changed by night’s end with a victory that did not come, was something once thought even more impossible than Westbrook’s shooting.

The theme of the day was Paul George and the city in which he chose to remain.

For so many, it still doesn’t compute. It really doesn’t compute for ticket-holding Laker fans, who booed George Wednesday as though he were Kevin Durant visiting Oklahoma City.

Russell Westbrook, before Wednesday’s tip, was asked about small markets and said he doesn’t believe in them. Not in this day and age.

“Wherever you are, if you’re doing the things you’re supposed to be doing, people will know who you are, plain and simple,” he said.

Perhaps the only thing Westbrook might cop to on the matter would be, if you’re going to unleash a new product, a huge media market to do it in never hurts.

For that reason, maybe, Westbrook waited until he returned to his hometown, Los Angeles, to introduce his new shoe.

Yet, he’s right, the iconic life basketball has given him, playing in Oklahoma City, has been nothing less than he would have received elsewhere and there’s a good chance his professional hometown has helped him to handle the spoils of his greatness better than other locales.

He practically said so.

“I was 18 years old when I got to Oklahoma City,” he said. “A huge part of my life, growing up to be a man, and understanding how to be, was in Oklahoma City.”

Yet, still better, was George.

In a story that dropped late Wednesday in the Los Angeles Times, George actually made the case that what many believe to be OKC’s weaknesses are strengths instead.

“After practice, we’re not like, ‘Hey, let’s jet out of here. We’ve got this place to go or that place.’ No, we’re spending time at the arena and at practice because there’s not as much going on,” George said. “There’s time focus to talk and just enjoy the fellowship.

“After practice, after games, we’re chilling. We’re laughing. We’re vibing. There’s no rush. Nothing is rushed in Oklahoma.”

Maybe the untold story is the NBA’s two oldest souls happen to be Russell Westbrook and Paul George.

Westbrook has chosen to stay two different times in the last three offseasons.

Though his recent shooting has been more mercurial than his personality, he still seems quite happy to be here.

Then there’s George, who’s quite literally is playing the best basketball of his life and just put the wraps on perhaps the best month of his basketball life.

His season averages — 26.7 points, 8.1 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 2.3 steals — are all career highs. In December, those averages, in the same order, were 30.8, 8.9, 3.9 and 2.3.

It was the last question put to him before leaving Chesapeake Energy Arena Monday night, when George was asked how well his December had gone.

“It’s been good,” he said, before deciding to answer the question in a much broader context, added, “This year. This year’s been good.”

It was the year he decided to remain in Oklahoma City and it’s been a good one.

The NBA continues to come to terms with that decision. George was fine with it as soon as he made it and is loving life since making it.

Everybody’s happy.

Around here, at least.

Game 38

Oklahoma City at Portland

Time: 9:30 p.m.

Place: Moda Center

Records: Thunder 24-13, Trail Blazers 22-16


Radio: WWLS-FM 98.1

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