Friday, December 3 2021

PLAYA VISTA, Calif. — Whenever he steps on the court, the Los Angeles Clippers’ star pledged that the best way to win a game will entail following one simple philosophy.

“How can this game be a ‘Paul George game?’ ” the Clippers’ star asked in the third person at the team’s media day on Monday.

During his 11-year NBA career, a “Paul George game” has carried different definitions. For most of his time with the Indiana Pacers (2010-17), it meant an All-Star performance. With the Oklahoma City Thunder (2017-19), it meant playing so well that George called himself “Playoff P,” or playing so poorly the Thunder still failed to advance past the first round. In his first season with the Clippers, it meant struggling with his physical health, his mental health and his shooting accuracy. But during his second season with the Clippers, it meant showing a mix of All-Star performances and hiccups, both with and without star teammate Kawhi Leonard.

But what does it mean for the 31-year-old George entering his third season with the Clippers? George will be the team’s No. 1 option while Leonard recovers from a surgically repaired ACL in his right knee for most, if not all, of the entire 2021-22 season.

“I’m really going into this year as this being one of my most complete seasons as far as doing a little bit of everything,” George said. “I think I proved it and showed it to myself during the playoffs.”

George sure did.

In the Clippers’ first game without Leonard, George had a 37-point performance against the Utah Jazz in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals. Only 12 days later, George scored a postseason career-high 41 points against the Phoenix Suns in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals. In between, the Clippers credited George for carrying a heavy workload, maximizing his recovery regimen and elevating his teammates.

KAWHI: Return uncertain but won’t rule out coming back this season

KYRIE: Misses media day but expects to join Nets soon for camp

SIMMONS: Staredown begins as star vows not to return to Sixers

“I saw what I needed to see, and I think this group proved what we can accomplish being down Kawhi,” George said. “So that was just enough. That was enough going into this summer knowing what I need to bring, what I need to add, what I need to work on. I’m ready. I’m ready for the fight for this year. I’ve been in this position, so it gives me a level of comfort being the number one guy to start, and I’m ready to lead.”

Still, George will likely need to show even more fight to ensure being the Clippers’ No. 1 option.

“He’s carried teams before. He’s a great player, and he’s been a top player in this league,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said. “This year we need more from him, more leadership, and to continue to play the way he played last season.”

Last season, the Clippers leaned on George to guide them for eight consecutive playoff games without Leonard. This season, the Clippers will lean on George to guide them for possibly 82 regular-season games and presumably a postseason without Leonard. Although forward Serge Ibaka expressed optimism about his progress from offseason back surgery, he offered no indication on when he might return.

Even during the Clippers’ postseason run that resulted in their first Western Conference finals appearance, George showed some hiccups in between his brilliant performances. In their first-round series against the Dallas Mavericks, George shot above 50% in only two games and below 40% in two others. George shot a combined 12-of-35 from the field in the Clippers’ first two losses to Utah. And against Phoenix, George missed two late foul shots that set up a Deandre Ayton game-winning lob in Game 2, and struggled with fatigue that resulted in a 5-of-20 clip in Game 4.

“He’s motivated enough and knows what he can do,” Leonard said. “He always knows — he’s been proving himself over the years in this league, from becoming a defender to a lead scorer to a two-way player. But he’s going to do good. His expectations need to be better than mine, so it’s all about him and his mindset. Doesn’t matter about what I think he should be doing or how he should play, I’m going to definitely give him feedback to help him get better, but it’s all based on him.”

George offered some clues during media day.

He considered a “Paul George game” one in which he excels as a scorer, playmaker and defender while controlling the game’s tempo and pace.

“The biggest thing you take away from being the number one guy is just how to control the game,” George said. “That’s the only thing I can apply being the number one guy. I mean, I’ve seen it all, from doubles, traps. You name it, I’ve seen it. I do think what you do take away from being the number one option on a nightly basis is how I can control the game and impact the game and play the game, slow the game down how I want it to go. So that will just be my approach.”

The Clipper will rely on Paul George as their unquestioned No. 1 option with Kawhi Leonard expected to miss most, if not all, of the upcoming season.The Clipper will rely on Paul George as their unquestioned No. 1 option with Kawhi Leonard expected to miss most, if not all, of the upcoming season.

The Clipper will rely on Paul George as their unquestioned No. 1 option with Kawhi Leonard expected to miss most, if not all, of the upcoming season.

George’s approach will also entail elevating his teammates. He and Reggie Jackson entered the Clippers’ interview room engaged in playful banter, which Jackson filmed on a personal camera. Jackson has credited George both for re-signing with the team and for remaining consistent with his offseason workouts. Clippers rookie Keon Johnson also expressed appreciation for George “taking me under his wing.” But even if the Clippers will also rely on a returning frontcourt (Marcus Morris Sr., Ivica Zubac, Nicolas Batum), a newly-acquired point guard (Eric Bledsoe) and some wing depth (Justise Winslow, Terrance Mann), all signs point to the Clippers’ success mostly depending on George.

“We’ve all got do better, do more, especially without Kawhi back. But I’m pretty confident in P.G. leading the way for us all year long.” Batum said. “P.G. is going to be the man for us.”

Will that be enough for the Clippers to compete for an NBA championship? After all, the Los Angeles Lakers paired LeBron James and Anthony Davis with Russell Westbrook. After appearing in the NBA Finals, the Suns still have Chris Paul, Devin Booker and Ayton. The Brooklyn Nets’ trio of Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving is fully healthy.

But after the Clippers overcame two consecutive 0-2 playoff deficits partly because of George’s stellar play, Lue contended that “anything is possible.”

“It gives me a level of comfort being the number one guy to start, and I’m ready to lead,” George said. “We trust one another. Honestly, Year 12, I couldn’t imagine any other locker room I would want to be a part of than this group right here. Now it’s just about putting it to the floor.”

Follow USA TODAY NBA writer Mark Medina on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Sign up for USA TODAY’s various subscription deals.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Clippers: Paul George says he’ll have ‘one of my most complete seasons’

Source: Yahoo Sports

Previous

Cleveland's Bradley Zimmer hits 408-foot home run against older brother

Next

X-factors for critical Yankees-Jays series

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Check Also

Pro Sports Media

Trending Now

Dennis Smith Jr. with an and one vs the San Antonio Spurs

ProFootball Talk on NBC Sports Brent Musburger: Jon Gruden’s career was ended by a ‘paid assassin’ The Jon Gruden lawsuit against the league continues to reside in the window between the filing of the complaint and the first move by the NFL in response to it. For now, the void has been filled by Brent […]

Read More

Detroit Pistons’ 2021 media day: Here are the highlights

SNY Why Mets missed playoffs in 2021, what to expect in 2022 | SportsNite On SportsNite, now that the Mets have been officially eliminated from playoff contention, Chris Williamson and John Harper discuss why it all fell apart for the Mets and what we can expect, in what promises to be a very busy offseason. […]

Read More

Mavericks vs. Pelicans odds, line: 2021 NBA picks, Dec. 3 predictions from proven computer model

Getty Images The New Orleans Pelicans and the Dallas Mavericks will face off in a Southwest Division clash at 8:30 p.m. ET on Friday at American Airlines Center. Dallas is 11-9 overall and 6-3 at home, while the Pelicans are 6-18 overall and 3-10 on the road. Both teams are below .500 against the spread […]

Read More