Russell Westbrook has realized that he will need to take a lead role in keeping Paul George with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
"The bigger question for me is not necessarily what the Thunder learned, but what did Russell Westbrook learn about recruiting star a teammate back?" said Royce Young on The Hoop Collective. "I think what's interesting here is I hear a lot about Westbrook and George and kind of the relationship they've built and that it's really strong off the court.
"I think what's key about this is Paul George got to meet Russell Westbrook when he was 28 years old. Russell Westbrook at 28 years old is a lot different than the 20-year-old Kevin Durant met and got to know. So while Westbrook and Durant had a unique bond they had a respect and admiration for each other, there were a lot of scars to that relationship.
"Paul George is meeting and getting to know Russell Westbrook as a father, as a married man and as a strong and mature guy. Quite an evolution in terms of personality. I think that's kind of an interesting element.
"One thing Russell Westbrook is not known for is he's not a real social guy when it comes to team dinners, hanging out, cookouts at the house, playing video games and doing those types of things. Westbrook was kind of off and isolated.
"He's kind of broken out of that shell with Paul George."
Westbrook reportedly is aware of the perception some around the league have that certain players may not want to play with him.
"It's a conversation I've had with him and other people have talked to him about. He's aware of the idea that people don't want to play with him," said Young. Whether that's true or not. Really, this is kind of an unfair setup for him. Paul George coming to Oklahoma City; they were never on the radar. It was well known that the Lakers were his preferred destination.
"If Westbrook can pull it off, it's a feather in his cap for sure. At the same time, it's going to be something people are going to talk about. It's going to be a narrative that persists if Paul George leaves whether it's Westbrook's fault or not."