Paul George is here to stay. George, who averaged 21 points a game last season, signed a multi-year contract extension with the ballclub this week, making the six-time NBA All-Star one of the center point building blocks for years to come. That may or may not go over well with Clippers Nation.
The last time they saw George was when he and the Los Angeles Clippers blew a 3-1 lead in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs this past summer. In Game 7 of the series, George scored a grand total of 10 points and grabbed four rebounds in the Nuggets’ 104-89 series-clinching win. It was a rock-bottom moment for both George and the Clippers.
“I’m my toughest critic,” George said at the beginning of the team’s training camp. “At the end of the day, I know what’s not good and what’s not acceptable. Last year was not an unacceptable year for me, and I know that. I had an offseason to train. I didn’t have an offseason last year going into a season. I got my offseason back this year going into this season, so I feel really good. I’m in a great place. I’ve been working hard. You know…just putting a lot of hours in and working on my body and being in the gym.”
George didn’t mince words discussing what went wrong and who to blame for the Clippers’ epic loss.
“We felt we were the better team,” George said. “They played harder than us and they ultimately got past us.”
Shortly after the embarrassing collapse, the Clippers and head coach Doc Rivers parted ways. The rumors began to churn about the future of the franchise and whether or not players like George would even be around after the Clippers’ grand-scale humiliation. Power forward and backup center Montrezl Harrell decided to move on via free agency and signed a contract to play with the Los Angeles Lakers.
The rumors are still going strong because now the Clippers have leverage for a blockbuster trade. But for now, the Clippers and George have put to bed any chance the Palmdale native is going anywhere any time soon with the deal, reportedly for four years and $190 million.
“This is an important moment for our franchise and our fans, to secure a long-term commitment from one of the premier two-way players in the NBA,” said Clippers president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank. “We aspire to create a destination for players, an environment where they can succeed and enjoy their success. We’re delighted by Paul’s pride in representing Clippers fans, honored that he trusts the organization with this chapter of his career, and share in his relentless pursuit of championships. We admire his talent, his dedication and his unwavering allegiance to this region. We’re excited for the opportunity to accomplish our mutual goals together.”
With that said, did the Clippers really have a choice not to sign George to an extension? They just lost the reigning Sixth Man of the Year in Harrell. Their Hall of Fame coach is now in Philadelphia coaching up Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. A franchise in chaos and turmoil is not something that owner Steve Ballmer wants. But you had better believe that Ballmer wants to win a championship-sooner than later.
By agreeing to a new deal for George, Ballmer and the Clippers are signaling that they want to win. Now.
“Paul is one of the best and most versatile players in the league, and he has been for about a decade,” said Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue. “He can play on or off the ball. He can score in a variety of different ways. And he can guard almost every position on the court. His skill and leadership will be integral to everything we do for many years to come. I’m thrilled we can continue to build with PG.”
George has played 10 seasons in the NBA. He spent his first seven years in the league playing for the Indiana Pacers. He then spent two seasons playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder before being traded to the Clippers in the summer of 2019. The trade gave the Clippers a super duo nucleus of George and Kawhi Leonard with immediate expectations of a title run.
Those aspirations didn’t come to fruition for George and Leonard, both playing in their first season together with the Clippers. That may come to past in their second year together given the fact the George and Leonard are now familiar with one another and it helps that they know Lue, who was Rivers’ top assistant coach last season.
Lue was head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers and guided that team and LeBron James to a championship against the Golden State Warriors after being down 3-1 in the NBA Finals. So the foundation of having a championship-pedigree coach, knowledge of the team playbook, and a kinship with other returning players should help George get back to the form he had in his second year with OKC in which he scored over 28 points and accounted for eight rebounds a game for the Thunder.
That’s the Paul George the Clippers were looking for when they made the trade for him last July.
“The same way I stepped into my Season 2 with Oklahoma is the same way I’m approaching this year,” said George.
If George is able to do that, Ballmer and Clippers Nation will be happy. During his press conference after signing the contract extension, George talked about leaving his mark as a Clipper and on the city of Los Angeles.
“I love being here. I love the family that I’ve created in my first year,” George said. “This is where I want to be. It’s home. I’m at home and I want to build something, a real foundation. Ultimately, this is where my legacy where I want to leave the biggest imprint on.”
The driving force behind George’s push for a contract extension? Family, he said.
“My family is the biggest factor in this decision to stay home and make it easy for my family,” George said. “This is a childhood dream being fulfilled. It’s just priceless. Regardless of what this deal was for it was a priceless deal for me. Having an opportunity to play here and be here in front of my family, my friends, and again, leaving my mark at a place where I grew up at.”
George said he is grateful for the opportunity Ballmer and the Clippers have presented to him.
As a kid growing up in Southern California, I always dreamed of playing in Los Angeles, where my friends and family could come watch me play,” said George. “I am so grateful to Steve Ballmer, Lawrence Frank, Coach Ty Lue, my teammates, and the entire Clippers organization for believing in me. I am proud to call this my home and look forward to doing my part in helping make the team a tremendous success – both on and off the court – in the years ahead.”
Dennis is the editor and publisher of News4usonline. A news and sports reporter, Dennis has written about social justice, civil rights, education, politics, and crime. He also covers the NFL, NBA, MLB as well as other sports. Based in Southern California, Dennis earned a journalism degree with a minor in criminal justice from Howard University. The real HU!!