LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Lakers aren't able to officially recruit free agents until free agency begins late Saturday night, but one fan has already begun an all-out, full-court press for Paul George.
Jacob Emrani, a personal injury attorney and longtime Lakers season-ticket holder who put up four billboards recruiting LeBron James to the Lakers back in March, now says he has paid for over 40 billboards around Los Angeles -- including two near Staples Center -- centered around George joining the Lakers. Several billboards will go up on Monday and stay until the end of July.
When free agency opens on July 1 -- 9 p.m. PT on June 30 for the Lakers -- team president Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka will begin a long-awaited summer in which they hope to land two max free-agent stars like James and George.
"As Lakers fans, we all thought we had Paul George in the bag, and he was 100 percent going to come and in the past few weeks when I heard people saying he might be considering [staying with the Thunder] and having second thoughts, I felt like nobody was really giving attention to Paul George," Emrani said. "I feel like it is extremely important for Paul George to see this and see how Lakers Nation is so excited about bringing him home."
"When he went out there last year and said he wanted to play for the Lakers, it was the first ray of hope that we were going back to being a destination where people want to come," Emrani added. "Now the time has come."
The six differently designed billboards all include the hashtag "#PG2LA." Three designs are focused on George and another three make pitches for James with George. One billboard says "COME HOME" in purple and gold with an image of George, a Los Angeles County native. Another states "CAN'T SPELL PURPLE AND GOLD WITHOUT PG" with George's image on it while another says "OUR TIME HAS COME!"
The three boards that are aimed at both George and James include one that has the message "#PG2LA + THE KING = ANOTHER RING." Another one has two images of Lakers jerseys with James' and George's name on them and the message "NO TWITTER BURNER ACCOUNTS HERE" accompanied by #PG2LA and #LABron. The final billboard design has the images of James and George with the hashtags #LABron and #PG2LA in the middle of the board.
Emrani said he received several phone calls, letters and messages from Lakers fans around the country after he posted the James billboards when the Cleveland Cavaliers were in Los Angeles to play the Lakers and Clippers in early March.
The attorney would not divulge how much he is paying for the 40-plus billboards this week, saying he does not want to overshadow what he calls "a movement" by Lakers fans to see the franchise restore its glory and add star power this summer. Emrani, who says he has more than 50 billboards advertising his companies across Los Angeles, estimates that the average cost for a billboard is between $5,000 and $25,000 depending on location.
"We are at the finish line, and as fans I felt like I should represent how fanatic we are and how much we want both of them," Emrani said. "People tell me, 'Hey, can you put up a billboard for this and that?' People are calling my office. I felt like people are counting on me to do this. I want people to know I am doing this for us as fans, for all the people that called and followed us and send me messages all the time.
"This has really turned out to be a real movement, and I hope we all get to celebrate in less than two weeks from now with both of them holding up their [Lakers] jerseys."