Why Clippers Star Paul George Should Be On MVP Talks

After the Clippers lost the first two games of their first-round playoff series at home to Dallas last May, Agent Aaron Mintz called Paul George, one of their longtime clients, to check-in.

Mintz didn’t panic less than a year after George, the Palmdale all-star wing, suffered overwhelming criticism following the post-season collapse of the Clippers. He heard a tone so determined that he still remembers the conversation.

“We’re winning this series,” Mintz told him.

“It wasn’t what he said to me, it was the conviction with which he said it,” said Mintz. “I stopped thinking, ‘Is the season going to end like this?’ to ‘OK, you win this series.’ “

The following night there were more believers. The teammates’ cars drove in front of George’s house. Inside, over homemade pizzas and baked wings prepared by George’s personal chef, a gamer-only get-together began with a film review that Guardian Reggie Jackson called “pivotal”.

“We began to understand how other people’s heads clicked, what we were misrepresenting, and where people were confused,” Jackson said.

Clippers striker Paul George drives against Heat Center Bam Adebayo during a game earlier this month.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Not only was it said what was said, but also how.

“We went to see a movie and we saw it [fixes]but it was like feeling the guys energy, ”said striker Marcus Morris. “You started to feel how effective her words are.”

George said he did not deserve all of the credit for the session, calling it the product of a collective frustration voiced by veterans such as Kawhi Leonard, Rondo Rajon, Patrick Beverley, Morris and himself. But George set the plans in motion. He told the personal chef to expand the menu. Before the team’s flight to Dallas, he brought what could have been an upright locker room into a cozy living room. And by opening his doors, he opened the ground for conversation and the team’s confidence in his comeback.

“I knew the team we were on and we were too good to go 2-0,” George told the Times. “Second, we didn’t exhaust our options, and I saw that. I wanted to nip it in the bud and you know, we talk a lot in the locker room, in practice, but I felt like we needed a little more communication at that time, because that’s what the playoffs are about.

“We just hung out. Everyone tuned in and had the microphone to say what they wanted. I thought we got better. “

Six months later, when a new season hits its quarter pole Sunday, George is still playing facilitator. The way he plays while his superstar colleague Leonard is on hiatus for the foreseeable future is like being a valuable player, teammates and coaches said.

At 31 years old, seven years after a gruesome leg injury and two years after surgery on both shoulders, George was responsible for more than 34% of the Clippers’ offenses, while averaging 25.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and Got 5.2 assists and 1.9 steals in more than 35 minutes – his highest usage rate and second highest averages for scoring, rebounds and assists after 19 games.

With the Clippers’ error rate reduced by Leonard’s recovery from knee surgery and the line-ups regularly depleted by the absence of Morris, center Serge Ibaka and striker Nicolas Batum, the team saw George do everything but cut up the food afterwards arrange.

“We need him to do everything he does to be in the position we are,” said Jackson. “I think he’s playing at the best level and he’s in the best mindset he ever had.”

Clippers Guard Reggie Jackson is hugged by his close friend and teammate Paul George.

Clippers guardian Reggie Jackson is hugged by his close friend and teammate Paul George after he scored an important three in a win over Oklahoma City earlier this season.

(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

He produced “MVP” chants at the Staples Center in what one NBA assistant called the return of the mutual “relentlessness” that first made him an All-NBA player in Indiana and Oklahoma City. Against Miami, he racked up a loose ball rebound and sprinted to the corner for a three to lead by seven, then put his feet on the other end to attack. Coach Tyronn Lue still talks about George falling on the court in Minnesota to recover and then getting up in time to file a charge.

“In a way, I think I play my better basketball,” said George.

From Kevin Durant of Brooklyn to Nikola Jokic of Denver to Stephen Curry of Golden State – whose Warriors are facing the Clippers tonight – others have presented perhaps even more compelling MVP cases than Georges, which is not without its flaws. He has an average career high of 3.9 sales and there is a need to prepare himself and his teammates more efficiently for open baskets, according to his own statements.

Even more important to the Clippers than where it ends up in the minds of the price voters, however, is how it lived up to the team’s high expectations.

“PG alone doesn’t get enough credit for the guy he is, the teammate he is, you know how positive he always stays, and the mom can play,” said Morris. “I’ve never played a player before, or someone who was so smooth at 6-9, 6-8 and was able to do what he did.

“He deserves this chance to be featured among the great players and I just feel like he’s always being left out. I do not know what it is.”

New Orleans coach Willie Green, who helped the game plan against George as Phoenix assistant in last season’s conference finals, has seen a carry over this season.

“He has taken on the leadership role, including taking the team to the goal,” said Green. “He’s just a great player and when these guys are asked to promotion they can do it.”

There are specific factors responsible for this beginning, starting with George’s increased focus on his body.

Few memories are cherished for George more than winning Olympic gold in 2016. However, when George was approached twice by USA Basketball last summer about his interest in the Tokyo Games, he declined, believing Leonard was one significant part of the season was going to be missed, he owed it to the Clippers to be as healthy as possible.

George has re-committed to a post-game recovery program that can last over an hour. He lifts weights before being trained by a soft tissue specialist and bathing in hot and cold tubs.

Clippers forward Paul George hits the hands with a fan.

Clippers striker Paul George claps his hands with a fan as the clock goes back to a victory over the Trail Blazers at the Staples Center.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

On the offensive, Lue said he changed his game calls to use George not just in pick-and-roll games, isolation, or catch-and-shoot situations, but a mix of all three.

“Ty Lue calls up a lot more exercise games to keep the ball moving,” said one scout. “We’ll see if this continues as soon as Kawhi comes back.”

Yet many around George see this MVP-like start not in the vacuum of eight strong weeks, but in the context of what George referred to as “his journey,” dealing with a sudden promotion in Indianapolis and injuries in Oklahoma City Shown up to the tour when he called the May meeting at his home.

Mintz, for example, said he wasn’t surprised and said George operated best when asked to take on more responsibility.

In 2012, after Indiana’s top scorer Danny Granger was injured during George’s third season, George spent hours at the Pacers’ training facility after a road trip that scored four points in Sacramento and none in Golden State. He scored 34 points in his next game, the next 14 double digits each, and earned the first of his seven All-Star awards.

In Oklahoma City just three years after he broke his leg, George co-led with Russell Westbrook when then-Thunder coach Billy Donovan noticed that George never asked for more games to be played for him .

“He’s an elite player because he obviously plays both sides and has an impact on the win,” said Donovan.

There were legitimate concerns about how the Clippers would compensate this season if George couldn’t stay healthy. But he hasn’t missed a game while playing the NBA for the tenth most minutes. A self-proclaimed student of Kobe Bryant’s play-through mentality, George has repeatedly called his workload “my job” and can enumerate his history of playing through injuries: In a 2017 playoff series against Utah, in which he averaged 24.7 points, he was playing on a partially torn meniscus. The next season he tore his labrum in his shoulder in the first game after the All-Star Breakyet finished third in the MVP voting. Last season he set the record of his career despite a toe injury.

“I didn’t want pity, but it’s as if I see stars in the league who miss a game because a finger or a toe hurts?” Said Georg. “That’s s- I played through and I’ll give everything I have for my team.”

By some numbers, George’s start to last season was even more efficient. But it was the finish that influenced his current run.

Without the Clippers rally against Dallas, which the series won in seven games, their season against leaders Utah does not go into the second round and Leonard has no opportunity to injure his knee. George does not move to option # 1 and is given the chance to defeat the playoff demons if he wins Game 5 in Salt Lake City by scoring 37 points with 16 rebounds. The Clippers are not using their resilience to overcome another 2-0 deficit against Utah and advance to their first conference final. George does not feel as though he has been lifted and is entering this season with as much mental self-confidence as he is physically healthy.

“I’m at peace,” said George in October.

None of this, for better or for worse, happens without the Clippers clearing their hole on Dallas. And it grew out of an important night at George’s house taking advantage of the moment, previewing months later, when asked to do it every game.

“When you lose 2-0 it’s easy to give in,” said Lue. “But our team wouldn’t give in. And orchestrating this film session and getting people on the same page and seeing different things was great of him.”



When: 12:30

On the air: TV: Bally Sports SoCal; Funk: 570, 1220

Update: Golden State, an NBA best 17-2, is the only team this season to score at least 100 points in every game. The Clippers (11-8) counter with a defensive that is in second place behind the Warriors. Stephen Curry’s 28.4 points per game lead the NBA.

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