The Los Angeles Clippers were ousted from the 2020 NBA Playoffs after blowing a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Semifinals. Immediately after they completed their collapse, Paul George spoke to the team in the locker room and urged them to remain committed. Here is what he said, via The Athletic:
"“We can only get better the longer we stay together and the more we’re around each other,” George said after the game. “I think that’s really the tale of the tape of this season. We just didn’t have enough time together.”"
Now that is funny. Consider Paul George's history. He spent six seasons in Indiana. After some early success, he spent his final few years with the Pacers plotting his way out of Indiana to play with the Los Angeles Lakers. When the Pacers finally gave in and traded him, it was to Oklahoma City where he surprisingly decided to re-sign after one season. A year later, Kawhi Leonard called and asked him to come to Los Angeles to play for the other team there. To George's credit, it seems like he might have mulled it over for a couple days before going to OKC management to ask for a trade.
Now he's in Los Angeles. He's been there for a year. After asking for trades from his two previous teams. It should also be noted that he passed on his opportunity to sign with the Lakers in 2018 in favor of staying in OKC. The Lakers were always the team he only wanted to play for and when he finally had that chance, he bailed on them, too.
The idea that George is the one preaching commitment is really incredible. It's also impossible to tell if this was a plea to Kawhi or the rest of the non-supporting cast. Does he want free agents Reggie Jackson, Markieff Morris and Montrezl Harrell to return? How much commitment should guys like that give to George and Kawhi when they can both opt out after next season?
Or was George really trying to convince Kawhi? Could Kawhi ask for the Clippers to flip George? With his player option in 2021, he could ask for a trade whenever he wanted and be pretty easy to move. Both guys have "max" deals that are at most a 2-year commitment for a new team. Both guys are due less than $38 million each season. Russell Westbrook and John Wall are more expensive. Or you could have Tobias Harris or Blake Griffin for a little less money.
The Clippers have one year to get it right or they have to start from scratch. Kawhi could walk next year and George could opt in. Steve Ballmer must have nightmares about being the one person Paul George is willing to commit to.