Paul George suggested there is no division in the current Los Angeles Clippers locker room as he responded to claims he and Kawhi Leonard received preferential treatment with the team last season.
‘Current’ Clippers locker room being the crucial wording after reports emerged this year of players within the organisation growing unhappy with the ‘special treatment’ given to the team’s two star players, with tension off the court translating into a lack of chemistry on it on the way towards a sombre postseason exit.
Speaking on TNT’s Inside the NBA after starring in Tuesday night’s 116-109 win over the Los Angeles Lakers, George was asked about the matter.
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“The dudes that put in the work, that built themselves up to be where they’re at, it’s a reason they get to that level, he said. “They know what they need and they know what makes them play at a high level.
“Whoever that offends. We don’t have that issue right now in this locker room.”
In a bid to rectify the issues that hindered them in the bubble, the Clippers hired Tyronn Lue to replace Doc Rivers as head coach and signed former Toronto Raptors big man Serge Ibaka, while seeing Montrezl Harrell, who famously clashed with George, and JaMychal Green depart for the Lakers and Denver Nuggets, respectively.
George finished the Clippers’ season opener with a game-high 33 points along with six rebounds and three assists after shooting 13 of 18 from the floor and five of eight from deep.
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Coach Lue explained postgame he had told George to be more aggressive in the second half, during which the 30-year-old scored 26 of his total points.
“I just allowed the game to come to me,” added George. “I thought I put a lot of just pressure on myself to score [in the first half]. I got into a good rhythm of making plays for the team. That’s how I play. That’s how I catch fire. I let the game come to me.
“I took the shots when they were available. I didn’t press for shots. I thought that was the biggest thing. I didn’t press for shots.
“When I say that [letting the game come to him] I don’t mean I’m not going to be aggressive, I’m talking about aggressive to shoot the ball. I’m going to be aggressive to make plays as I try to get my teammates shots, getting in the paint.
“I was aggressive trying to get in the paint and make plays but I’m not going to be out here trying to jack up shots just because I’m Paul George on the floor. I’m going to give myself up on plays to try and create double-teams, try to create rotations and play from there. If I’ve got one-one-one situations I’m going to take them.”
George’s standout performance came on the back of a widely-criticised postseason showing, which saw him shoot 38 of 106 from the field and 14 of 51 from deep in the Western Conference quarter-finals against the Dallas Mavericks, before going 50 of 115 from the field and 23 of 60 from beyond the arc against the Nuggets in the semi-finals.
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Leonard defended his teammate for his efforts, insisting, despite his poor return, George still made important contributions on the floor.
“Last year in the playoffs when he was missing shots, he was still talking, communicating, playing the right way, playing defense,” said Leonard.
“They just didn’t fall for him. And tonight, his shots fell but obviously he is making my job easier by talking to people, giving instructions on missed assignments or if we are not running the plays right.”
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