Paul George

Pacific Notes: Burks, Suns, Clippers, LeBron

Shooting guard Alec Burks originally thought he would be helping Paul George and Russell Westbrook take the Thunder to the promised land in 2019/20. But things change quickly in the NBA. Burks signed a one-year, $2.3MM veteran’s minimum contract with the Warriors this summer after Oklahoma City let out Burks of his deal once the team opted to rebuild following its trade of George to the Clippers.

Burks has been stuffing the stat sheet lately for an injury-depleted Golden State. And his efforts (including tallying 29 points and pulling down eight rebounds in 114-95 win over the Grizzlies this past Tuesday) have not gone unnoticed, as Logan Murdock of NBC Sports Bay Area reports.

“I definitely knew he could score,” three-time All-Star forward and defensive team lynchpin Draymond Green told Murdock. “When he’s been on any team, he comes off the bench and he gets it going. Going downhill, getting to the basket and I think he’s definitely improved his jump shot.” On such a favorable deal, Burks could serve as a spark plug bench shooter for a contender this spring.

There’s more news from around the Pacific:

  • In an excellent piece on the upstart Suns, The Athletic’s John Hollinger notes that the team, currently 8-7, has reason to be optimistic about their season outlook. Hollinger suggests that, with several teams amongst the 2018/19 Western Conference playoff crop already off to rocky starts, the conference feels wide open. A postseason berth is hardly off the question for the team, which has seen ample improvement after adding Ricky Rubio and Aron Baynes this summer, not to mention new head coach Monty Williams and incumbent star shooting guard Devin Booker. Hollinger credits Rubio as a big component to the team’s current two-way improvement, and Williams as a major culture-setting upgrade.
  • USA Today’s Mark Medina observes that the Clippers have already determined their late-game dynamics with All-NBA forwards Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, their two blockbuster team additions from this offseason. This, of course, spells trouble for the rest of the league. “That’s the beauty of this team. Nobody cares who’s getting the shots down the stretch or who gets the looks,” George noted. “You have a group of guys that just want to win.”
  • After the Lakers eked out a 109-108 win against the Grizzlies yesterday, All-Star forward LeBron James registered his ire at a lack of foul calls in his favor granted by the game’s attendant referees (he had zero free throw attempts). “I’m living in the paint,” James said after the game, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN. “If you look at my arm right here, these are four or five [scratches] that happened the last two games, and they weren’t called at all.” Lakers head coach Frank Vogel shares James’ frustration, and apparently intends to bring the officiating up with the NBA. “We’ll deal with the proper channels and talk to the league about that,” Vogel said.

Paul George Talks 2017 Trade Request, Teaming Up With Kawhi

After sitting out the Clippers‘ last three games due to a left knee contusion, Kawhi Leonard will suit up tonight against Boston, marking the first time that Leonard and Paul George will play together for the franchise, per Ohm Youngmisuk and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

For George, it will be the culmination of what has been a years-long desire to team up with Leonard, as he tells Youngmisuk in a separate ESPN article. According to George, when he requested a trade out of Indiana in 2017, the Lakers were widely believed to be his desired landing spot, but he also had interest in being sent to the Spurs, who still had Kawhi on their roster at the time.

“I wanted to be traded to San Antonio,” George told Youngmisuk. “We wanted to go to San Antonio first, and we didn’t make that happen.”

A source confirms to ESPN that the Spurs and Pacers talked at the time, but San Antonio lacked the assets necessary to make a move for George. The Lakers ultimately passed too, since they were reluctant to surrender too many assets for a player they thought they might be able to sign in free agency, writes Youngmisuk. George was eventually dealt to Oklahoma City, but still hoped to team up with Leonard at some point down the road.

“Since that moment, we were trying to pair up with one another,” George said. “We were trying to make it work. [After being traded to the Thunder] I had obligations that I wanted to come back to Oklahoma and give it another shot. … And then I felt that I needed to move on, I needed to go in another direction and I needed to at that point do what I wanted to do my whole career.”

About four or five days before news broke this summer that the Clippers had reached deals to acquire George and sign Leonard, Kawhi reached out to PG13 to see if the time was finally right to try to play together. Although it took another trade request from George, the two star forwards did ultimately end up on the same roster in Los Angeles. Now, they’ll take the court together as teammates for the first time.

“Just seems like it was destined,” George said over the summer. “We were supposed to play together.”

“New Shoulders” Help Paul George Set Clippers Records

Two games into his Clippers career, Paul George is putting up record-setting numbers and confirming the high expectations that have surrounded the team since July, writes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

Making his home debut with the franchise last night, George scored 37 points in 20 minutes in a rout of the Hawks. Afterward, he credited a pair of offseason surgeries that fixed his damaged shoulders.

“I got [a] new shoulder,” George said. “I can’t say nothing else to that: I got new shoulders. And they haven’t been this healthy in a long time.”

George went under the knife in May shortly after the Thunder were eliminated from the playoffs, as doctors fixed a partially torn tendon in his right shoulder. A second operation a month later repaired a partial tear in his left labrum. The Clippers have brought him along slowly since acquiring him in a July trade that sealed Kawhi Leonard‘s decision to join the organization. George didn’t take the court until Thursday, but quickly showed he was worth the wait.

He scored 33 points at New Orleans, giving him 70 in a combined 44 minutes. That’s the highest total for any player in his first two games with the Clippers, and last night’s 37-point performance is the most by anyone making his Clippers home debut. George believes he could have done more if he weren’t on a minutes limit.

“It could have been my first 50(-point game),” he told reporters. “That’s just how I felt, but … I’m a confident player. It wasn’t more so a confidence (thing) by me saying I’m back. It’s just a statement. I’m just happy to be back to this game.”

George still hasn’t played alongside Leonard, who has turned in several impressive performances while his fellow star was recuperating. Leonard sat out the past two games with a left knee contusion, which coach Doc Rivers called a day-to-day issue. The league might get its first look at the new tandem tomorrow night when L.A. hosts Oklahoma City.

Paul George Plans To Make Clippers Debut On Thursday

Star forward Paul George is expected to make his debut as a member of the Clippers on Thursday in New Orleans, reports Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

George has spent the first three weeks of the regular season recovering from a pair of shoulder surgeries he underwent in the spring after the Thunder’s season came to an end.

There was an expectation that he’d miss about 10 games to start the season before targeting this week’s back-to-back set in Houston (Wednesday) and New Orleans (Thursday) for his return. Barring a setback, the plan is for him to sit out the game against the Rockets before suiting up vs. the Pelicans, says Haynes.

George’s return is great news for a Clippers team that may be without Landry Shamet, who is undergoing an MRI today on his sprained left ankle. If Shamet misses time, the rest of the Clippers should play similar minutes with George back in the lineup. Once the roster is fully healthy, some of those players figure to have their roles adjusted.

Kawhi Leonard, who is on a load-management plan, will likely sit out one game of the Clippers’ back-to-back set, but it’s unclear at this point whether that will happen Wednesday or Thursday.

Western Notes: Collins, Davis, Lillard, West

Zach Collins hasn’t given up on playing this season, Casey Holdahl of the team’s website tweets “For sure, it’s very realistic,” Collins told Holdahl. However, the Trail Blazers big man faces a long rehab after undergoing shoulder surgery last week. He’s expected to miss at least four months, which leaves only about a month before the end of the regular season in a best-case scenario.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • Anthony Davis is playing through right shoulder pain, an injury he suffered on a missed dunk attempt two weeks ago, Dave McMenamin of ESPN relays. “There’s really never a play I don’t feel it,” Davis said. He hasn’t missed any games due to the injury and that will continue as long as he doesn’t aggravate it, according to Mark Medina of USA Today. “If he can be out there, he’s going to be out there,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “He’s going to play through pain. We just got to make sure that it’s being done intelligently.”
  • Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard is content to stay the course with the Trail Blazers rather than joining forces with superstars in other organizations, as he explained to Medina in a separate story. Lillard signed a four-year, $196MM extension during the summer. “I just feel like there’s always a reward at the end. When you do things the right way and you do the work, you’re going to get the results,” Lillard said. “I really believe that. We’ve gotten the results. Even after failures, we come back and answer to it. We’re staying the course. That’s worth it to me.”
  • Clippers adviser Jerry West rubber-stamped the Paul George blockbuster with the Thunder and explained why to Sam Amick of The Athletic. The Clippers gave up five first-rounders, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari. “Everybody talks about all the draft picks we gave away. Well, we did give a lot of draft picks away. But two of them were not ours – period, OK?” West said. Giving up the young point guard was the hard part but worth it in West’s mind. “I think Shai is going to be an All-Star player in this league for a long time, and he’ll keep getting better. But we have two finished products right in the prime of their careers (in Kawhi Leonard and George) – or just getting in the prime of their careers,” he said.

Pacific Notes: Johnson, Rondo, Kings, George

Former Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson recently appeared on Fox Sports 1 to discuss his old team, the well-documented trade conversations involving Anthony Davis and more.

Prior to the trade deadline last February, with Davis seeking to move out of New Orleans, Johnson and then-Pelicans GM Dell Demps engaged in a serious of discussions with hopes of finalizing a trade to land Davis in Los Angeles. The Lakers never believed Demps was truly looking to accommodate Davis’ request, and Johnson used a noteworthy level of honesty while discussing the matter in his appearance on Fox.

“He was looking at me like I caused Anthony Davis to want to be traded,” Johnson said (h/t Dan Feldman of NBC Sports). “So, we’re on the phone, and he’s blaming me. I said, ‘What are you blaming me for, Dell?’ I heard he wanted to be traded, so I’m giving you a call. ‘Are you going to trade him?’ ‘You’re not going to trade him.’ So, he had me send three or four proposals, but he never got serious, Shannon. He never got serious. And I said, I told Rob [Pelinka], I told Jeanie [Buss], ‘He doesn’t want to trade AD to us.’ And sure enough, the last one was, ‘Give us your whole team and five first-round picks.’ I said, ‘Listen, man. [Laughter.] I can’t give you five first-round picks and the whole team.’ He wanted all our young guys. I said, ‘No, I can’t do it now.’ That’s when I said he doesn’t want to trade him.

“And look what happened. When they found out, the owner found out what was the trade proposal from us, she was like, ‘Oh, what are you doing?’ And then the new general manager comes.”

Johnson didn’t mince words about what failing to trade Davis did for Demps’ job security, either.

“It got him fired,” he proclaimed.

There’s more from the Pacific Division tonight:

  • Despite originally targeting a Sunday return date, Lakers guard Rajon Rondo (calf) will wait to make his season debut, according to Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes (Twitter link). Rondo participated in a workout on Saturday and will work out again on Sunday to ramp up his endurance, Haynes notes. The Lakers have games scheduled this week against the Suns on Tuesday, Warriors on Wednesday and Kings on Friday.
  • In his latest mailbag, Jason Jones of The Athletic examines the situation of Kings big man Harry Giles, where coach Luke Walton stands with the front office, and more. Sacramento has opened the 2019/20 season with 3-6 record, including a 1-3 mark at home.
  • Clippers star Paul George could make his season debut as early as Monday after being cleared for five-on-five practice this weekend, Mirjam Swanson of the Orange County Register writes. George had separate surgeries earlier this year to repair a partially torn tendon in his right shoulder and a small labrum tear in his left shoulder.

L.A. Notes: George, Leonard, Rondo, McGee

Paul George is almost ready to return to the court after going through his first five-on-five practice yesterday, writes Mark Medina of USA Today. Coach Doc Rivers told reporters that George’s debut with the Clippers could come tomorrow against the Raptors, although Wednesday against the Rockets or Thursday against the Pelicans remains more likely.

No matter when it happens, George, who was involved in one of the highest-profile trades of the offseason, is eager to stop rehabbing and start playing. He had surgery on both shoulders shortly after the Thunder were eliminated from last season’s playoffs and has been operating on a limited basis since training camp opened.

“I’m used to being in this rehab stage and knowing what it takes to get my body prepared,” George said, referring to a broken leg he suffered in 2014. “It’s a long process. But with me going through it and having a drastic injury in my leg, I know what to expect. I know what pressure to put on myself and what pressure not to put on myself.”

There’s more from Los Angeles:

  • Monday’s game will mark Kawhi Leonard‘s first meeting with the Raptors since leading the team to the NBA title in June, notes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. Leonard said he meets a lot of Canadians in Southern California and they thank him for bringing a championship to the country. “The guys, the journey,” Leonard responded when asked what he will remember from his season in Toronto. “Also the country. The city was amazing. And it’s just so much, you can keep going on and talking about it.”
  • Rajon Rondo is getting closer to his season debut for the Lakers, but it won’t come today against Toronto, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. The veteran guard, who is recovering from a calf injury, went through a full workout Saturday and will participate in another practice today to help build his endurance.
  • Lakers center JaVale McGee won’t complain about a reduced role as long as the team keeps winning, relays Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times. McGee is playing 25% fewer minutes and taking half as many shots as he did last season, with much of his time going to Dwight Howard. “Being on Golden State set me on (a path), let me have a mindset to where I’m not worried about minutes,” McGee said. However, he added, “If we’re losing and this is happening, then it’s a different situation.”

L.A. Notes: Howard, Kuzma, George, Leonard

Over his last few NBA stops, Lakers center Dwight Howard earned a reputation for rubbing teammates the wrong way, in part because of his “poorly-timed playfulness” that led some people in league circles to believe he lacked professionalism, writes Sam Amick of The Athletic. Since arriving in Los Angeles this summer though, Howard has been all business, with noticeable changes to his “dedication and demeanor.” As the veteran center tells Amick, that new approach has been deliberate.

“I’m the same person. I love to have fun, love to enjoy life. I just separate it,” Howard said. “There’s a time and a place for everything. I’m here for business. When I go home, that’s when I can be who I want to be. But right now, when I put on that jersey and when I come in this locker room, it’s about the Lakers. And that’s it.”

Howard, who made a strong early impression by studying game film with head coach Frank Vogel on the Lakers’ flight back from China last month, is also off to a strong start on the court. He has averaged 6.7 PPG, 7.9 RPG, and 2.1 BPG in a part-time role through seven games, with a league-high .786 FG%.

Here’s more on Los Angeles’ two teams:

  • After being held to 19 and 16 minutes in his first two games this season, Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma had a more lenient minutes limit on Tuesday against the Bulls, writes Eric Woodyard of ESPN.com. Although Kuzma only ended up playing 21 minutes, Vogel is prepared to increase that figure going forward. “To me, it’s not so much what his limitations are,” Vogel said before Tuesday’s game. “It’s really about rhythm and timing and conditioning, for me, in terms of what his minutes end up being. But he’s allowed to play 26 now.”
  • Paul George is scheduled to go through his first full-contact practice as a member of the Clippers on Saturday, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com. A Wednesday report indicated that the team is hoping to have George make his season debut next week, either on November 13 in Houston or November 14 in New Orleans.
  • Jovan Buha and Sam Amick of The Athletic take a deep dive into the Clippers‘ load managing of Kawhi Leonard, exploring whether his nights off are precautionary or if he’s actually dealing with an injury. Sources tell The Athletic duo that there’s no definitive plan to have Leonard miss half of every single back-to-back set this season. The star forward’s rest schedule will be determined a few weeks at a time, and could be adjusted as the year goes on.

Clippers Targeting Next Week For Paul George’s Debut

Clippers forward Paul George has yet to make his debut for his new team as he continues to recovery from shoulder surgery. However, according to Sam Amick of The Athletic, it sounds like that long-awaited debut may happen sometime next week.

Sources tell Amick that the Clippers are eyeing their back-to-back set of road games on November 13 (in Houston) and November 14 (in New Orleans) for George’s return. The hope is that the six-time All-Star will play in one of those games, but not both.

As Amick notes, there’s a chance that George will be able to return sooner – possibly Monday in Toronto – or that his debut will be postponed a few days, perhaps to November 16 vs. Atlanta. But that back-to-back set on November 13-14 is considered the most likely time for his Clippers debut.

Even if George makes it back for one of those games against the Rockets or Pelicans, it’s unclear if we’ll see the Clippers’ full arsenal on display, since Kawhi Leonard has only been playing one half of the club’s back-to-backs so far. Leonard will sit out tonight vs. Milwaukee before playing on Thursday against Portland, for instance.

If the Clippers decide to load-manage George in their upcoming back-to-back sets while he works his way back to 100%, it will be interesting to see whether the team rests both its stars at the same time or staggers their nights off.

Pacific Notes: George, Fox, Ayton, Curry

The Clippers are getting encouraging signs that Paul George might be ready for action soon, according to Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. George participated in a full-court, three-on-three scrimmage Saturday that lasted about 20 minutes, his most strenuous workout since having offseason surgery on both shoulders.

The team still isn’t offering a timetable for his season debut, and coach Doc Rivers didn’t provide any new information. Rivers speculated last month that George would miss the first 10 games, which would keep him sidelined for at least four more.

“At some point, someone’s going to tell me who can play,” Rivers said yesterday. “I’ve never really gotten involved in it.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:
  • De’Aaron Fox hasn’t lost faith in new Kings coach Luke Walton despite a rough start, relays Jason Jones of The Athletic. Walton wants Fox to assume more control over the team as the season wears on, and the confidence seems to be reciprocated. “We’re going to ride with him,” Fox said of Walton. “He’s been great since the day that he stepped in. I think we feel like we trust him and he trusts us.”
  • Deandre Ayton has served five games of his 25-game suspension, giving the Suns an opportunity to add another player to the roster, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. Ayton is now on the suspended list, where he will remain until December 17 unless his appeal is successful. Phoenix already has 15 players with guaranteed contracts, and there has been no indication on whether the team plans to make a roster move.
  • A broken hand hasn’t affected Stephen Curry‘s desire to play in the 2020 Olympics, his father tells Marc J. Spears of ESPN. Former NBA star Dell Curry said his son is still looking forward to his first Olympic experience. “That was definitely a goal coming into this year,” he said. “He wants to play in the Olympics. This is a little setback, but hopefully it’s a goal he can strive for through his rehab.” Curry added that Stephen is “doing the best he can” after having surgery this week.