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Report: ‘Growing belief’ Paul George will stay with Thunder

Oklahoma City Thunder v Cleveland Cavaliers

CLEVELAND, OH - JANUARY 20: Paul George #13 of the Oklahoma City Thunder warms up prior to the start of the game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on January 20, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

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LeBron James is the biggest name on the free agent board this summer.

Paul George is a close second — and there have been rumors for the better part of a year the Lakers have plans to try to land both of them. If not both, the Lakers are going to go hard after George, the All-Star two-way player who considers Los Angeles his hometown.

The Lakers could strike out there, too. From Marc Stein of the New York Times wrote this in his weekly email newsletter.

There is a growing belief around the league that Oklahoma City has a far better chance to retain the free agent-to-be Paul George than many believed when the Thunder crashed out of the first round of the playoffs. As George prepares to field the Lakers’ long-anticipated interest, his willingness to post an Instagram picture of himself last month from a hospital bed after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee has helped to fuel the notion in some corners that he’s in no rush to leave OKC.

This is not a universal belief, there are sources around the league who still think the Lakers have a legitimate chance to land George. However, a year ago Goerge to L.A. was seen as all but a lock, and now it’s at best a coin flip — OKC did that good a job wooing him last season. Add to the fact that Philadelphia (if it strikes out with LeBron James) and other teams, including maybe Cleveland, could make a bid.

Nobody is completely certain what George is thinking. However, there is a genuine belief among the Thunder players and front office that this team is much closer to the top of the West than it showed last season. George may want to remain a part of it.

Over the course of this season, Lakers’ management — Magic Johnson and GM Rob Pelinka — tried to tamp down expectations for this summer saying it would likely take multiple years to land the guys they want. Which is true. That doesn’t mean it’s going to sit well with some segments of the Los Angeles fan base.