Paul George

L.A. Notes: Clippers Preview, Coffey, George, Lakers, AD

John Hollinger of The Athletic previews the Clippers for the 2022/23 season, writing that with the league’s deepest roster and stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George back and healthy, they should be among the best teams in the league. Hollinger predicts the Clippers will go 54-28 and finish as the No. 1 seed in the West, but thinks the Warriors have a better shot of making the NBA Finals.

There are a couple of question marks on the roster, even though it’s very deep, especially on the wing. According to Hollinger, the Clips need either John Wall and/or Norman Powell need to step up and be a “third star” to complement Leonard and George, with shot creation and getting to the free throw line top priorities.

The other weakness of the roster is center, with only Ivica Zubac as a true five on the 15-man roster. Hollinger thinks it might be a tall order to have Robert Covington play full-time backup center in the regular season, and wonders if the team might use its last standard roster spot on a traditional center.

Here’s more on the two Los Angeles teams:

  • Amir Coffey, a Minnesota native who played college ball for the Golden Gophers, says he fulfilled a lifelong dream by signing a three-year, $11MM contract as a restricted free agent. “It’s a dream come true,” Coffey told Marcus Fuller of The Star Tribune. “Just playing in the league and doing something I’ve been wanting to do since I was a kid. Just putting all that work in and having it pay off is a good feeling.” Coffey had a breakout third season in ’21/22 after spending the bulk of his career on two-way deals, averaging 9.0 PPG, 2.9 RPG and 1.8 on .453/.378/.863 shooting in 69 games (30 starts, 22.7 MPG).
  • George recently sat down for an interview with Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN (video link) and the two discussed a number of topics, including joining forces with Leonard, his health, leadership, recruiting Wall, and more.
  • The Lakers started Patrick Beverley and Austin Reaves in place of Kendrick Nunn and Damian Jones during Wednesday’s preseason game against Phoenix as coach Darvin Ham was taking a look at a small-ball lineup, tweets Kyle Goon of The Southern California News Group. Star Anthony Davis sat out the game for “precautionary” reasons due to lower back tightness, Goon notes (via Twitter).

Pacific Notes: A. Davis, McNair, Clippers, Warriors

After being limited to just 76 in the last two seasons, Anthony Davis is determined to have a healthier year in 2022/23. Speaking to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, The Lakers star said he’s so excited for the coming season that he has “goosebumps,” adding that he’s “looking forward to a healthy year.”

“I went into this summer focusing on strengthening my body,” Davis told Haynes. “I have to be on the court and at my best to put us in position to be our best. I’m ready to do that.”

Davis has played more than 70 regular season games just twice in his 10-year career, so the Lakers would likely be thrilled to see him surpass that benchmark. However, the eight-time All-Star told reporters this week that he has loftier expectations for himself.

“I want to be able to play all 82 (games),” Davis said, per Kyle Goon of The Southern California News Group. “And if I’m not, I don’t want it to be injury-based where I can’t play. That’s my goal. The more I’m on the floor, the more I can help my team and its chance of winning when I’m playing.”

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • With Monte McNair entering the final year of his contract, Kings owner Vivek Ranadive said on Wednesday that he’s happy with the job the general manager has done, writes Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. However, the two sides have been “too focused on the season” to discuss a possible contract extension, according to Ranadive. “Monte, (assistant GM) Wes (Wilcox), the whole front office, the coaches they hired, the coaching staff, the process they went through, the trades they made, the rookie they picked, I’m very pleased with everything that’s happened,” Ranadive said. “I think right now the focus is: Let’s win.”
  • The Clippers are taking a cautious approach this preseason with a handful of veteran players, with head coach Tyronn Lue announcing on Thursday that Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, John Wall, and Reggie Jackson won’t play in the team’s preseason opener in Seattle on Friday (Twitter link via Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times). The Warriors are going the same route with Klay Thompson, holding him out of the club’s two preseason contests in Japan, tweets Anthony Slater of The Athletic.
  • The Warriors‘ preseason opener on Friday showed the new simplified offensive role the team envisions for center James Wiseman, who was primarily used as a slasher and roller en route to a 20-point, eight-rebound game, Slater writes for The Athletic.
  • Logan Murdock of The Ringer takes a look at the Warriors‘ efforts to balance their title defense in the short term with their vision of the franchise in the long term.

Kawhi Leonard Cleared, But Clippers Will Remain Cautious

Kawhi Leonard, who missed all of last season for the Clippers while recovering from a torn ACL, has been cleared to be a full five-on-five participant in next week’s training camp, but president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank says the team will remain cautious with its star forward, writes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

He feels great,” Frank said at the team’s practice facility. “His plan is, look, he wants to participate in everything. And I think organizationally, we’re going to be cautious. So it will be a step-by-step approach.”

He is cleared.” Frank later added. “For him, he’ll say, look, I want to do everything. Again, we’ll be very cautious in the approach.”

Frank said it’s a balancing act between allowing Leonard to compete and preserving his health.

There’s constant communication with seeing where he’s at,” Frank said, per Mark Medina of NBA.com. “The toughest thing is when a guy really, really wants to go ahead and try to do everything. You just assess it and just have those conversations. What everyone can agree on is, ‘What is the goal? So, what’s the best way to get there?’ If it’s close, you exercise some caution when you’re coming back from a serious injury like this.”

According to Youngmisuk, Frank was noncommittal when asked whether Leonard would play in preseason games, saying the team plans to take it one day at a time.

When you’re dealing with a major injury, you can’t predict,” Frank said. “I know with him, he wants to do everything, but we’ll just kind of let’s see how he feels each day. We have an outstanding medical team, and we’re playing the long game with it. So we’re not going to get into predictions, what he will do or he won’t do.

“… We’ll figure out, is that best for his body? One day it may be. The next day, we’ll have to reassess. We’ll rely on the feedback we get from Kawhi, obviously from the medical team. It’s too early to predict. We have time before we need to get there.”

Frank also says Paul George‘s right elbow is fully healed, and the star forward is developing into more of a leader. George missed three months with a torn UCL in 2021/22 prior to returning at the end of the season.

His elbow is 100 percent healthy,” Frank said, per Youngmisuk. “Paul has had an extremely purposeful, driven, and very productive off-season, in that his consistency of training has been off the charts. Plus, he continues to take more and more of an ownership and leadership role. You know, he had a lot to do with getting John Wall to come here.”

It won’t just be Leonard that the team is cautious with. The Clippers have championship aspirations and plan to rely on their depth, so periodic rest could be a store for a number of veterans throughout the season, as Andrew Grief of The Los Angeles Times relays.

We want our guys to be able to be at their best when their best is needed, which is, you know, April, May and June,” Frank said. “So to be able to give some of those heavy load carriers [rest] where they’re not overtaxed at that time, yet there’s enough continuity that there’s rhythm there.”

Pacific Notes: Curry, Ballmer, George, Kings

Stephen Curry is under contract through the 2025/26 season and he hasn’t considered finishing his career with anyone other than the Warriors. In an interview during this afternoon’s Oakland A’s baseball game (video link), Curry talked about his love for the Bay Area and his plans for the future.

“I’ve been out here … I just finished my 13th year,” Curry said, “and to be able to say I’ve played for one team my entire career, and also to say between the 10 years in Oakland and these last three years in San Francisco, I can honestly say how special this place is. Also, there’s a huge need here that we can really kind of tackle some of those challenges, and do it in a meaningful way. Honestly, I don’t want to leave ever. I want this to be my one and only home, and even thinking about what happens after basketball is done.”

With four championship rings and two MVP trophies, Curry is among the most popular and successful athletes in the history of the Bay Area. He’ll be 38 when his current deal expires and hasn’t given any indication about whether he plans to continue playing after that.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • In a tour of the Inuit Dome construction site, Clippers owner Steve Ballmer tells Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN that he wants to have the premier team in Los Angeles (Twitter link). “You said this is a Laker town. No, Laker-Clipper,” Ballmer said to Youngmisuk. “And someday I want to be able to say Clipper-Laker.” Of the new arena, Ballmer said, “I think it’s another statement that says, ‘Hey look, we’re nobody’s little brother. We’re a real team.’”
  • Clippers forward Paul George will be the latest NBA star to make an appearance at the Drew League, tweets Law Murray of The Athletic. The pro-am league in Los Angeles has attracted numerous NBA players this summer, including LeBron James, DeMar DeRozan, Trae Young and John Collins. This will be George’s first Drew League appearance since 2014.
  • James Ham of Kings Beat offers four suggestions on how the Kings can improve their defense for the upcoming season.

John Wall Discusses Clippers, Leonard, George, Jackson

New Clippers addition John Wall sat down with Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN (YouTube video link) to discuss his opportunity with what could be one of the deepest teams in the NBA next season, led by All-NBA swingmen Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.

Wall, a five-time All-Star with the Wizards before a series of lower body injuries limited his availability, agreed to sit out the entire 2021/22 season for the Rockets as Houston prioritized developing younger backcourt talent. After agreeing to a buyout, Wall signed a two-year, $13.2MM deal with the Clippers as an unrestricted free agent.

“I think they’re just a first-class organization, great teammates over here,” Wall said of joining L.A. this summer. “I just feel like they have a great culture… Also not having to be a Batman every night, having an opportunity to play with other players where I can take a backseat, and develop my game but also just help those guys as much as possible.”

Here are more highlights from their conversation:

  • Wall discussed how he’ll adapt his game as a secondary player in Los Angeles after being one of the top two offensive options, alongside shooting guard Bradley Beal, for the majority of his NBA career while with the Wizards. “I know I’m still a talented player,” Wall said. “I know all the things that I’ve worked on, especially being able to knock down catch-and-shoot shots because I probably won’t have the ball in my hands as much (as on past teams). But at the same time they still want me to be myself, be aggressive, be able to break down the defense for (Leonard and George). I think… sometimes in the fourth quarter a lot of teams (are) keyed in on Kawhi and Paul George. I think that’s an opportunity for me to excel.”
  • “Still can’t believe it,” Wall said of his chance to play with two All-NBA wings, alongside whom he anticipates leaning into his abilities as a facilitator. “I can’t wait till I have the opportunity to be on the floor with those guys. I’ve just always been a past-first point guard… But my best attribute is being able to pass the ball.”
  • When asked about his expected training camp competition with incumbent Clipper Reggie Jackson for dibs on the starting point guard role with Los Angeles next season, Wall was diplomatic. “I’m a competitor like he’s a competitor,” Wall began. “We’re two very talented players. He’s been great for this team the last couple of years… We’re just going to battle it out.” Jackson will be on the last season of a two-year, $22MM contract he signed to stick with the Clippers through 2023.

Pacific Notes: Wall, George, Mutombo, Ayers, Looney, Payton II, Kings

John Wall is expected to sign with the Clippers once he clears waivers and he’ll be joining a close friend in Los Angeles, Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times writes. Paul George formed a strong bond with Wall early in their NBA careers and they’ve both dealt with major injuries.

“He’s somebody I’m always going to root for,” George said during Wall’s first season in Houston. “He’s a brother to me, and I couldn’t be more happy to see him back on the floor and doing what he loves to do, and continuing to make those plays that everyone loves him for.” Wall didn’t get a chance to make those plays last season as he sat out while Houston developed its young backcourt.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

Clippers Notes: Leonard, George, Covington, Batum, Hartenstein, Outlook

The Clippers were a much more optimistic bunch than most teams after getting eliminated from playoff contention, Jim Alexander of the Orange County Register writes. That’s due to the return of perennial All-Star Kawhi Leonard from his knee injury, plus the expectation that Paul George will have better injury luck next season.

In addition to being out for most of the season due to an elbow injury, George missed Friday’s play-in tournament loss to New Orleans after testing positive for COVID-19.

We get our main guys back. I mean, we can be dangerous,” coach Tyronn Lue said. “I think when you get Kawhi and PG back healthy, Norm (Powell for) a full season … this team can be pretty special. But it’s all about health. Our young guys (Terance Mann, Amir Coffey, (Luke) Kennard, Ivica Zubac), all those guys have (had) a chance to develop and play meaningful games. They played big for us. Our veteran guys, we already talked about what Marcus (Morris), Nico (Batum), Reggie (Jackson) have brought to this team. We got to get back, get back to the drawing board. But I’m very excited for this group, the guys coming back.”

We have more on the Clippers:

  • Robert Covington will be an unrestricted free agent this summer but the prospect of playing with Leonard and George is enticing to him, Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times tweets“The way that we played tonight when we went small, imagine PG and Kawhi in that lineup,’ he said. “That’s a lot of versatility … Once them guys come back next year, if I’m here, I’m really looking forward to that.”
  • By trading for Covington, the Clippers also acquired his Bird rights, which will allow them to exceed the salary cap and luxury tux to retain him, ESPN’s Bobby Marks notes in his guide to the team’s offseason. They don’t have a first-rounder due to the George trade but they will have two trade exceptions of $9.7MM and $8.3MM, plus the taxpayer mid-level exception of $6.3MM, to make roster upgrades.
  • Another potential decision is whether to re-sign Batum if he declines his $3.3MM option, Yossi Gozlan of Hoops Hype notes in his offseason preview. They hold Non-Bird rights on another unrestricted free agent, Isaiah Hartenstein. Gozlan also breaks down the remaining salary due to each player on the roster.
  • After blowing two chances to make the playoffs, the Clippers are in typical wait-til-next-year mode, Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times opines. Despite the rosy outlook, the Clippers can’t guarantee that Leonard will regain his pre-injury form, that the chemistry will be the same or that someone else won’t get hurt.

Paul George Out Friday Due To Positive COVID-19 Test

Clippers forward Paul George has entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols and will miss Friday’s win-or-go-home play-in game against the Pelicans, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Tim Bontemps (Twitter link).

George has tested positive for COVID-19, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). President of basketball operations Lawrence Frank said that George started not to feel well on Thursday and registered a positive test on Friday morning (Twitter link via Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN).

It’s a brutal blow for the Clippers, who appeared to be getting healthier at just the right time entering the postseason. George recently returned from an elbow injury that caused him to miss three months, while Norman Powell came back last week after being sidelined for nearly two months due to a broken bone in his foot.

The Clippers will still have Powell available for Friday’s play-in game, but star forwards George and Kawhi Leonard, who continues to make his way back from ACL surgery, will both be on the shelf, opening the door wider for the Pelicans to clinch the No. 8 seed.

Of course, head coach Tyronn Lue kept the Clippers competitive and in the playoff picture with both of his All-Star forwards unavailable for much of the season, so it’s certainly not a given that George’s absence will result in a home loss on Friday.

If L.A. pulls out a victory tonight, George should be able to return by Game 3 of a first-round series vs. the Suns. If not, Tuesday’s loss in Minnesota will end up being his final game of the 2021/22 season.

George’s positive COVID-19 test could also be bad news for the Trail Blazers. Portland will receive the Pelicans’ top-four protected 2022 first-round pick if it falls between No. 5 and No. 14, but that pick would land at No. 15 and would be sent to the Hornets if New Orleans wins tonight. In that scenario, the Blazers would instead receive Milwaukee’s 2025 first-round pick (top-four protected).

L.A. Notes: Lakers’ Roster, Howard, Rondo, George, Powell

The Lakers‘ hopes of reaching the play-in tournament were extinguished this week, but these final games are still important for a few players, writes Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register. The team’s roster figures to look much different next season, and young players such as Mason Jones, who finished third in the G League MVP race, see the late-season contests as a chance to shape their future.

“At the end of the day, I want to be a good player in the league,” he said. “From this day forward, you’ve got to continue to take steps. I was with South Bay earlier and I took that as the right mindset. And I’ll continue to take steps. From here, I want to continue to take the steps and learn from them because possibly, they could be my teammates next year.”

Beyond LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook, the Lakers have only a few players under contract for next season, Goon notes. Talen Horton-Tucker is signed for two more years and Kendrick Nunn for one more, and the team has 2022/23 options on Austin Reaves and Stanley Johnson. That may create an opportunity for Wenyen Gabriel, whose two-way contract was converted to a standard deal on Friday.

“Obviously we didn’t get a lot of wins this month and we obviously wish we could have won more,” Gabriel said. “But I played with a lot of energy, and I feel I showed some things – some tools that the front office thinks can help the next following season. So it’s just them believing in my potential.”

There’s more NBA news from Los Angeles:

  • Michigan coach Juwan Howard has been mentioned as a possibility to replace Frank Vogel as head coach of the Lakers, tweets Steve Bulpett of Heavy, who adds that if that happens Rajon Rondo could join him as an assistant. Rondo, 36, is currently playing for the Cavaliers.
  • There appears to be no concern about Paul George‘s elbow as the Clippers head toward the play-in tournament, according to Joe Reedy of The Associated Press. George, who missed three months with a torn ligament, has been excellent since returning last week and the team has gone 5-1 in the games he has played. “The elbow’s fine. It feels pretty good,” George said. “Overall, I’m trying to take each possession for what it is and trying to make the best play possible.”
  • Norman Powell is happy to back in time for the postseason after fracturing a bone in his left foot shortly after being traded to the Clippers, per Mirjam Swanson of The Orange County Register. “I’m excited for what we’re building here,” Powell said after returning Wednesday. “Playing along PG, it still doesn’t seem real to me. He was a guy that I looked up to growing up, a guy, we had some battles in Toronto in the playoffs, and early on in my career he gave me some words of encouragement – my rookie year, that stuck with me. So being able to play alongside with him, and Kawhi (Leonard) when he gets back healthy, it’s going to be fun.”

Pacific Notes: George, Curry, Lundberg, Suns

Paul George returned from a three-month absence Tuesday night and showed no signs that he had ever been gone, writes Mirjam Swanson of The Orange County Register. Playing his first game since December 22, George logged 31 minutes, scored 34 points and helped the Clippers erase a 25-point deficit in a win over the Jazz.

“In the beginning, legs were a little heavy,” said George, who had been sidelined with a torn ligament in his shooting elbow. “But after second wind and everything settled, got the jitters out, everything came back and I felt fresh, I felt really good.”

He credits assistant coach Brian Shaw for helping him get back into game shape, saying Shaw had him do “a ton of running.” George added that the pain is gone from his elbow and he estimates that its about 90% of being at full strength. He admits that he considered shutting down the season after getting injured, but decided to trust the advice of team doctors.

“Honestly, right after it happened, I was on the side of just getting surgery and getting over it and getting it done now so I don’t have to go into a summer rehabbing and healing and nursing an injury,” George said.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Warriors guard Stephen Curry hasn’t resumed on-court activities since suffering a sprained ligament in his left foot, tweets Kendra Andrews of ESPN. Coach Steve Kerr said Curry’s workouts have been limited to the weight room and pool. The team plans to reevaluate his condition on Friday.
  • Gabriel Lundberg‘s NBA debut will be a memorable way to cap off a chaotic month, per Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Lundberg was playing in Moscow when Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine. He opted to leave to protect himself and his family, taking them back to his native Denmark before signing a two-way deal with the Suns on March 12. “It’s been a pretty hectic couple of weeks, to say the least,” Lundberg said. “Moving around. A lot of elements we needed to get a hold of. From getting my visa to getting out of the situation in Russia, waiting on my visa coming here. Getting acclimated to the system. Getting to know everyone. Waiting and joining the guys, but overall, I think it’s been a pretty good process.”
  • The Suns are hoping to host the All-Star Game soon, according to Evan Sidery of Basketball News. The team will submit a bid to host the game in 2025 and plans to try again for 2026 if that’s unsuccessful.