With so much focus placed on the return of Kawhi Leonard, it’s easy to forget that his co-star Paul George is coming off an injury-reduced season as well.
Playing just 31 games last season due to a torn UCL, George was also forced to miss the final play-in after testing positive for Covid just hours before the game. With an opportunity to do something special this season, George is approaching each game like it’s his last.
When speaking with reporters before Tuesday’s practice, what was apparent is the extreme focus George will bring into the new season.
“Every game matters,” George said. “We have to to look at it that way. We’re trying to build a championship team here, and we can’t do that if we don’t do everything at a high level.”
George continued by echoing Coach Ty Lue’s dissatisfaction with the team’s final pre-season game (a loss to Denver), saying the Clippers did not approach it with the right intensity. While he recognizes it is just the pre-season, George wants his team to approach every day with a championship mentality.
“The good thing about this group, is we all came together for a reason,” George said. “We know what the goal is, we know what our mission is. We’ll get there, nobody here is concerned one bit about that. We’ll get to where we wanna get to. But for me, I try to treat every game as if it’s the last game I’ll play.”
What a focused Paul George means for the Clippers
One of the best two-way players in basketball, Paul George has already proven the ability to lead this Clippers group.
Carrying a shorthanded team to the Western Conference Finals in 2021 after Kawhi Leonard went down, George shook the narrative that he underperforms in the playoffs. Not given a chance to repeat that performance last year, George is content being Leonard’s side-kick once again. While not concerned with being the main guy, a focused and healthy Paul George is key for the Clippers.
While so much has been made of their depth, the Clippers know they will go as far as their two best players take them. When the playoffs come, and the offense gets muddy, it is often on a team’s star players to reach a new level. Both Leonard and George have done that individually, and it times together, but injuries have robbed them of the last two seasons.
At a point in his career where winning is the only goal, George is laser focused entering this season. While he is admittedly content with being the side-kick, there will be several nights this year when the Clippers need him to be the main guy.
Whether it’s because Leonard is resting, or still ramping back up, George will almost certainly find himself as the go-to guy at times this year. He’s ready for that role, and in his own words, is approaching every game as if it’s his last.