Fans and publicity-seeking businesses in Philadelphia, Cleveland, Los Angeles, New York and even points beyond the sea have all in recent weeks entered into a billboard-based bidding war for the attention, and eventually hopefully the basketball-playing services, of LeBron James, who’s a couple of months and one opt-out away from being the most coveted player on the unrestricted free-agent market. Now, though, the King’s got company in the Being Praised and By Extension Pursued Via Big-Ass Public Rectangle Department, as Oklahoma City opens its arms to warmly embrace its newest hero: Paul George.
Or, more accurately, his recently christened alter ego:
— Devin Newsom (@DevinNewsom) April 16, 2018
— Lamar Oklahoma City (@LamarOKC) April 17, 2018
George, as you might have heard, celebrated the end of his first regular season as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder and the beginning his first postseason with the team by reminding the local media about how successful he’d been during the playoffs over the course of his first seven NBA seasons with the Indiana Pacers. That George shows up in a big way come the playoffs, we already knew; that he had given himself a nickname about it, we didn’t. From Fred Katz of the Norman, Okla., Transcript:
“Y’all ain’t met Playoff P yet, huh?” George smiled. “I’m used to these matchups.” […]
“It’s a fun guy to watch,” George said of his postseason persona. “It’s an out-of-body person where I just lock in and put myself into a different zone.”
It is, of course, kind of a goofy thing to give yourself a nickname like that. Then again, when you do what you want on the court, as George did to the tune of 36 points on 8-for-11 3-point shooting to go with dynamite defense in Oklahoma City’s win over the Utah Jazz in Game 1 of their first-round series …
“I thought you guys gave him that name,” [Carmelo] Anthony told reporters Monday. “And I found out this morning that he named himself that.” […]
“I thought it had to come from somebody else,” [Anthony] said. “But when you have a performance like that, he can stick with Playoff P.”
And if he’s sticking with it, then so will the billboard-makin’ citizens of Oklahoma, who sure would like to see the All-Star swingman elect to stay in Thunder blue when he hits free agency this summer. Despite multiple public (and not-so-public, but eventually reported) dalliances with the City of Angels, George has said he “can see himself being” in OKC for years to come, according to ESPN’s Royce Young:
“I’ve been happy here, I’ve been happy with the organization, happy with my teammates. Our record is not what we want it to be, but I think I’ve enjoyed just learning and being around these guys. So my answer is still the same. I’m not going to let the playoffs or how we finish this season persuade or indicate where I’m going to this offseason. I’m going to put everything into this and again, I can definitely see myself being here.” […]
“This is our first year together. This is Year 1 for this group,” he said. “We’ve got a chance to win it all, but realistically it takes time for things to build and chemistry to mesh. Just for everybody to be on the same page. So this wasn’t a championship or bust coming into this for me. It was just an opportunity to see what it’s like being here and just to naturally fall in love with it. And it’s been that. It’s been a lot of love here.”
To whatever degree it matters, that love now officially extends to George’s chosen moniker. It might not help if the Thunder flame out, but if PG likes “Playoff P” enough to make it a Thing, then seeing it in 1,000-point font on giant signs hanging above the city probably doesn’t hurt too much, either.
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