• Joe Makar

Paul George and the Quest for Redemption

Updated: Sep 6, 2020

NBA star Paul George has followed a fascinating trajectory throughout his 10-year NBA career. Attempting to project the career of an NBA player can be difficult, but with George, not even the most knowledgeable experts and analysts could have predicted how his career would unravel. A product of Fresno State, George was once the undisputed face of the Indiana Pacers and viewed as the next big thing in the NBA. Today, you can make a legitimate argument that George is now underrated and does not receive the attention he deserves.

What George has had to overcome to even be playing basketball at such an elite level is nothing short of remarkable. In 2014, George suffered a horrific leg injury while competing for the United States national team for the FIBA Basketball World Cup. Many were unsure if George would ever be the same, but he quickly silenced that doubt and returned to the same elite level.

Fast forward to 2020 and now George will have the opportunity of a lifetime with the Los Angeles Clippers. As the number two option on arguably the deepest team in the NBA, the days of George showing the world he can be a number one option are over. Those days ended in Indiana and it does not look like he’ll be presented with the opportunity anytime soon and that is perfectly fine.

Many players with boosted egos would cringe at the thought of playing second fiddle next to a true number one option, but for George, this change of scenery and elevated expectations are just what he needs to rejuvenate his reputation and legacy. All eyes will be on the Clippers throughout the postseason, but they won’t primarily be on George, they will be on his reserved superstar teammate Kawhi Leonard. If George can assist Leonard in the difficult task of bringing the Clippers their first NBA title, maybe he can rewire that narrative that’s associated with him of being a “playoff choker.”

The NBA world already knows what they’re getting with Leonard come playoff time. He has a winning track record with the Spurs and Raptors and will continue to be a top player in the league for at least a few more years. With George, his performances can be somewhat of an enigma. In the playoffs when games are closely examined and importance is elevated, he is the type of player who tends to be more inconsistent than not.

George had shoulder surgery last summer and while he claimed last month before the resumption of play that his shoulder was perfectly fine, he was seen icing it after a Game 2 loss to the Dallas Mavericks.

Every playoff appearance holds significance, but for George, this is the most crucial time of his career. He has been on some impressive teams, but none with expectations this high. In a year where there is no clear favorite to win the NBA championship, George’s level of play may possibly be the difference for this Clippers team. He can be the X-factor that determines if this team wins it all or suffers a premature second round exit.

Through three playoff games so far, George has not performed to the standard we expect from an NBA star. He is averaging 17.3 points per game but on a very dismal 30.9 percent shooting and 24.1 percent from three. In comparison to his career averages of 43.3 percent from the field and 38.1 percent from three, this leaves significant desire for improvement. While this is a very small sample size and should not be a reason to overreact, it is certainly something that should be addressed as soon as possible.

The Clippers are widely expected to at least make the Western Conference Finals and by then, the room for error will be minimal if the Clippers are serious about being the team that represents the Western Conference in the NBA Finals. George, as well as the rest of the Clippers roster, will be expected to bring high a level of play to the hardwood each night if they want to slay the powerhouse teams in the West.

We know what George is capable of in terms of commanding the attention of opposing defenses and being a dynamic two-way player, now we need to see it in the playoffs with consistency. NBA players often claim they don’t pay attention to what fans and the media are saying about them, but it is almost impossible not to. Although many stars will not acknowledge or address the overwhelming amount of hate and negativity that comes their way, they are seeing all of it.

A deep playoff run from the Clippers with George displaying his presence as a clutch and motivated performer can potentially shift the negative reputation that is attached to his name. For George, the 2020 playoffs are his chance at glory, redemption, and bringing a long-awaited NBA championship to his home state of California. He has had this fair share of game-winners throughout his career, but for George, this is a shot he cannot afford to miss.

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