Paul George got a warm welcome in his return to Oklahoma City, even if it was his former team that took the victory.
The Los Angeles Clippers lost, 118-112, without Kawhi Leonard and Patrick Beverley in the lineup, but it was a special night despite that for George. The six-time all-star was honored with a video before the game and received a loud standing ovation during introductions a mere five months after the Thunder obliged to his trade request.
"It just made me feel appreciated of being here," George said, via USA Today. "I enjoyed my time here."
The Thunder have not usually done tribute videos for players returning on other teams, according to ESPN’s Royce Young. But they took a step toward changing the norm with George, who spent the last two seasons there.
Paul George is announced first for the Clippers with a nice introduction thanking him for his time in OKC, and is greeted with very loud cheers. There was also some imagery on screen of George working in the community, a change of pace from what the Thunder typically do.— Royce Young (@royceyoung) December 23, 2019
George waved to Thunder fans, hugged Thunder head coach Billy Donovan and waved to the Thunder bench during introductions. He embraced players for his former team even after the loss and had a moment with the owner during the game.
Paul George waves to Thunder fans, shakes hands with Billy Donovan and waves to the Thunder bench. Pretty respectful all the way around pic.twitter.com/yGIZ2Y0nyo— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) December 23, 2019
Clippers head coach Doc Rivers put the cheers, rather than boos, into perspective after the game. Via USA Today:
"It depends on how you leave, honestly," Rivers said. "Paul said all the right things and did the right things. He’s a classy guy. He didn’t say anything bad about the city that I know of. I don’t know why you would be upset."
George has had a good relationship with Oklahoma City. He launched his foundation there in November 2017 with initiatives such as getting kids active in the outdoors (he taught kids to fish) and supporting families who have been impacted by a loved one suffering a stroke.
Thunder fans with more cheers than boos for Paul George during lineup introductions pic.twitter.com/hL9eUWZ0rT— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) December 23, 2019
“What always stuck out to me when I first arrived in Oklahoma was all the fans crowded the airport,” George said. “They are welcoming. That’s something that always stood out to me.”
The reaction to George’s return in Oklahoma City was the direct opposite of when he plays the team that drafted him. The Indiana Pacers fans boo George even still, two years after he requested a trade. They did it earlier this month in his third game back in Indiana since wearing a Pacers jersey. The 10th overall pick in the 2010 draft spent his first seven NBA seasons with Indiana.
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