Paul George has returned to playing competitive basketball and all is right with the world.
George returned to the lineup after tearing his rotator cuff and having surgery at the end of last season.
Heavy first reported in March that George tore his shoulder in a regular season game against the Denver Nuggets.
“I’m feeling good,” George told me recently.
“I’m taking it a day at a time and staying focused and productive.”
That he is!
George scored 33 points in 24 minutes for the Clippers in his first game back against the New Orleans Pelicans last week and followed that up by posting 37 points in 20 minutes against the Atlanta Hawks last Saturday.
I checked in with the Washington Post’s Ben Golliver last week on the Scoop B Radio Podcast. We discussed Paul George’s health and contribution to the Clipers.
Check out a snippet of our conversation below:
Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson: Paul George returned Thursday night scoring 33 points, had nine rebounds, and 4 assists if I’m not mistaken. And after the game said, “I thought I was terrible”. What did you think of his return?
Ben Golliver: I thought it was promising. It was better than he thought it was. I think his whole issue was just the pace of the game and getting up to speed and it is really tough you know, it’s like if you see a bicycle riding by you down the street and you try to jump on it and start pedaling, like that’s no easy task, right? I think the fascinating story about Paul George, and tell me if you agree with me on this one…I remember seeing you in Los Angeles when we were at that TNT event and I was talking to Barkley and Barkley is on the same page as me and he says, “Look, there’s a lot of pressure on Paul George this year. He’s hasn’t got out of the first round for four straight years, he’s joining a team where Kawhi Leonard is the other main star who just won a title last year, so if anything goes wrong they’re not going to blame Kawhi they’re probably going to blame Paul George. He’s also coming off of two shoulder injuries, he also in a situation where his trade was the biggest and one of the biggest stories of the summer so kinda all eyes are on him and it’s time for him to step up and do it. And there’s been some moments in the playoffs whether if it was Damian Lilliard hitting that 3 pointer in his face, or just how he played in that series against the Blazers, or even the previous year he had a couple of really rough outings against the Utah Jazz in the postseason where some people might start to question is this guy really ready for the moment?” And so I think that Barkley and I are kinda in a line like I see a lot of pressure on Paul George this year. What about you?
Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson: Yeah I take that and I raise you this… When I look at Paul George and I use this analogy often, I take it back to the Nets days when Vince Carter left Toronto and came to New Jersey and played for the Nets with Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson. To me, Vince never wanted to be THE GUY, he wanted to be one of the guys and I think he got thrust into that position in Toronto. Comparatively, when you look at Paul George he was the guy in Indiana and then he was one of the guys in Oklahoma City, what ended up happening was the torn rotator cuff was a thing, but as you said the Dame Lilliard thing happened, but I think like Paul George, Vince Carter everybody’s not meant to be the guy. I think in Oklahoma City, Russ was very ball dominant and in Toronto I think Paul George is in a situation where he doesn’t have to exert himself maybe as much or I’ll say maybe differently. When you look at that situation in L.A., he’s got a team that’s already premade. You have Lou, you have Montrezz Herrell, you have all these guys, you have Patrick Beverley. I say Paul George you’ll see more of him because number one, Kawhi is sitting out in the back-to-backs and also Paul George has something to prove. I think he has something to prove because like you and Barkley said you know you question whether or not if he’s vested but I also think he is an [inaudible]……I think we’re looking at him more a Robin than we are Batman sitting next to Kawhi. But Kawhi has already won. He’s won on 2 different teams. So I think the ownness is on Paul George to be consistent. We need a 33 points out of you every other game, or 20 here, or 15 here as long as we’re winning. I think he’s in a situation where the pressure is on him because he pressured Oklahoma City to get out to L.A. A lot of people were mad particularly on the Lakers side that Kawhi Leonard did not join the Los Angeles Lakers and there were some other reasons why he didn’t join but Paul George did not make his presence known on Oklahoma that he wanted out. I don’t even know that we would be having this conversation right now but I think the fact that he put so much pressure on Thunder management to get outta there…. Yeah, there are some extra eyes on him.
Ben Golliver: That’s a good point. There was a whole offseason saga around Paul George and kind of blowing up the whole league by him moving. I do think that so when he first got to OKC you viewed Westbrook as the number one guy and Paul George as the number 2 guy. By the time that he left, I viewed Paul George as the number one guy and Westbrook kind of dialed it back a little bit to be the number two guy. I think he is shifting back into the Robin role that number 2 guy like you’re mentioning with Kawhi. I think it’s a better fit for him man. I worry how far can a team go if Paul George is their best player in the playoffs, we haven’t really seen him carry a team like that, I think it could be a better situation where yes they’re a veteran balanced team, they’re going to get contributions from everybody, across their lineup they’re pretty deep. But ultimately in late game situations do you trust Kawhi more or do you trust Paul George more? To me I trust Kawhi more and I think that’s why he’s a good fit here. I think that Kawhi will emerge as that main guy and I think it can work out pretty well for them.
Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson: Yeah, I think you’re right, I do trust Kawhi more because listen, Maybach cars don’t have to advertise. Why? It’s a Maybach. Kawhi is a Maybach [laughs]
Ben Golliver: I hear you. It’s proven and he did it multiple times in different situations with different teammates too, you know? And I think that’s a big part of it and he is just in a really nice group. I understand that he coasts a lot and I think that bothers people, you know he’ll go the first 3 quarters of the game, and feels like he’s not even out there sweating, he’s just out there shooting jump shots practice, but a lot of these times late in the game he just takes over, he plays hard for 6 minutes and that’s all they need. You know? That’s enough to win the game and I think that’s gonna be their approach this year. To me it’s so funny because the Clippers are pacing themselves very deliberately all year long and the Lakers are so excited to be good again it’s like who cares? We’re in sixth gear! Let’s go out there and have the best defense, let’s have Anthony Davis highlights every night, LeBron put up the triple-double, it’s such a funny contrast and both of these teams are really good so it’s been fun to watch though.