Just in case Paul George forgot who he rejected, Lakers fans were ready to remind him at a MMA event over the weekend. At the Forum, the Lakers stomping ground of yesteryear, George had his face on the Jumbotron and the boos rained down. It was expected. Laker fans won’t boo Santa like Philly fan but if you wear Clipper gear boos are coming. Fans booed Chris Paul and Blake Griffin when they were out and about with their kids. When Kawhi Leonard was at the Rams game on Sunday, he was booed too.
For the uninitiated, Los Angeles isn’t a genteel kind of sports town where the Lakers and Clippers live peacefully in harmony. Los Angeles is a Lakers town and has been for 59 years when Jerry West and Elgin Baylor played their games at the Sports Arena after moving from Minneapolis. The Lakers success has incentivized their fans to be passionate, dramatic, emotional as they rep the purple and gold. Laker fan thinks every star wants to be a part of the Buss organization and when players feel differently, wrath is triggered.
During the summer of 2018, Paul George wanted to stay in OKC instead of signing with L.A. He chose Russell Westbrook instead of waiting to see what LeBron was going to do. A year later, he wanted to leave OKC and forced his way out but not to come to the Lakers. Laker fan felt slapped in the face.
When the Clippers open up against the Lakers in game one on October 22nd only one Clippers superstar will be on the court: Kawhi Leonard. Paul George is still recovering from a variety of surgeries in the offseason and doesn’t expect to be healthy until sometime in November. It will affect the Clips marginally. George isn’t the Clips best player and he will fit in nicely when he returns. Where the Clips are hurt in the short term is in the front court. George has length, athleticism, defends on every play, and is a tough match up. He can’t be replaced. When he returns, he has to develop chemistry since this is a new team.
The 1-2 combo of Leonard and George is not like the 1-2 combo of George and Westbrook. George as the option B to Kawhi Leonard makes the Clippers a formidable team surrounded by talented role players. It’s going to be a great year for Los Angeles basketball.
The Clippers are going to have to prove what the Lakers take for granted because of their birthright. The Clippers have never been to a conference final while the Lakers have been to 39 of them. The Clips history doesn’t compare, but in 2019-20 the past doesn’t matter. It is what is going to happen this year. And which team is going to be better. And can the Clippers win their first NBA title?
We’re talking about a Clippers championship three years after Lob City exploded. It was a quick resurrection after getting rid of Blake Griffin’s max contract. Kudos to the Clips front office. They had a plan and stuck to it. It helps having a billionaire owner desperate to win. Although Paul George wasn’t at the top of their free agent board, he is going to make his Clippers reign work, kind of like a poor man’s Scottie Pippen. But there are landmines.
Paul George has played two 80 game seasons in 9 years. Last season, a MVP year was derailed by a shoulder injury. He played through it but wasn’t as efficient as when the season started. George is hoping November is when he dons on the jersey and plays in his hometown, both shoulders completely healed. During media day he said he was pleased with his rehabilitation. Rotator cuff surgery and a torn labrum are injuries that need time to completely heal otherwise reinjury makes it worse.
George’s value for the Clippers is once the playoffs start. He can spread the floor, drive to the rim, and with Pat Beverly tag team the backcourt on defense. He was an important addition to Leonard. The Clippers need two superstars if they want to get to the NBA Finals.
Kawhi Leonard is the prize but Paul George is a comfortable number two. The Clippers will need everything from him if they are going to do special things. If Kawhi is the Clippers MVP, Paul George is their most important player.