The Los Angeles Clippers became favorites to win this season’s NBA title almost immediately when they acquired both California natives, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in a blockbuster trade deal this past summer.
Leonard previously played for the Toronto Raptors and led the team to their first NBA Championship last season. The Klaw was in free agency when he decided to leave Toronto and sign with Los Angeles. George on the other hand was acquired via trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder. PG has previously been vocal about his excitement to be back in California and has even expressed his thoughts on ending his NBA career in L.A. with the Clippers
“Not a lot of people get to say they played back home and honestly, I’m hoping that this is the closing of my journey to be able to finish here in LA. It’s a great chapter, great last part of my book, hopefully. And I’m looking forward to doing big things here,” George said in an interview posted by Jovan Buha of Forbes.
George sat out the for the first 11 games of this season as he was recovering from surgeries on both of his shoulders. The Clippers created a video of PG’s journey back to health and back to his hometown.
“Hearing Paul George from Palmdale, California for the first time in Staples, I think at that moment is where it hits that I’m home and representing for my city,” George said.
PG’s Journey Back to Health
Though PG was sidelined from the very start of the season, he still participated in team training. George said that the team kept him very involved while he was in recovery.
“The team kept me quite involved since I’ve been out, whether it’s practice, whether it’s Doc asking for what I like in offense or how’s our defense looking,” George said.
Clippers’ head coach Doc Rivers said that it was obvious that PG-13 was eager to play. His teammates also said that George was very engaged during his time out. George started off slow and eased his way back into the game. He started off with no-contact drills and then lead into three-on-three play with the rookies.
“I’ve been doing this since May, so I’m tired of rehabbing,” George said as his season debut came closer.
George’s Journey Back Home
George didn’t only receive love from Clippers’ fans when he returned back home to California, he also received honor from his Alma Mater, Fresno State University. In November, Fresno State gave George their highest honor and retired his jersey.
“Welcome everyone to Fresno State as we celebrate the coming home of Paul George. Today, is the day that we’re bestowing our highest honor in the area of basketball. Paul George for us is a quintessential bulldog, and this place will be his forever,” said Fresno State Director of Athletics Terry Tumey.
PG-13 made his official season debut with the Clippers on Nov. 14 against the New Orleans Pelicans. At that time George had only participated in one scrimmage since April. George was on top of his game as if he was never even out, tallying 33 points, four assists and nine boards.
“He ran plays as if he had been running them for months so you’ve got to give him credit. He must have watched a heck of a lot of film and all that, to be that prepared,” Rivers said.
Since George’s debut back at home, he has been putting up incredible numbers. So far this season he is averaging 24.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.9 assists a game.
“To be able to do this back at home in front of family and friends. There are just so many familiar faces out there that are rooting and pulling for me…it’s a dream come true,” George said.