Growing up in Palmdale, California, about an hour’s drive northeast of Los Angeles, Paul George was always preferential to the titleless Clippers over the title-abundant Lakers (though, rightfully so, there is some confusion over this point).
And now, in his second season as a Clipper — after seven years with Indiana and two with Oklahoma City — it sounds like the star forward wants to eventually retire as one, a preference he reiterated to reporters following L.A.’s 109-104 win over the Houston Rockets Wednesday night:
I couldn’t be more happy to be going on year eleven. I’m back home and I’m playing for a franchise that I admired growing up and had aspirations to play for. I’m at a great comfort level. This is home, I hope I can retire here, if they see it that way. And it’s where I want to continue to keep playing. I’m gonna do everything on my behalf — they paid me quite a bit — to get the job done and that’s what I’m working towards everyday.
The “job” George referred to after the Rockets game is undoubtedly an NBA title, something the Clippers have yet to obtain in their 51 years as a franchise. And there’s absolutely no denying that the Clippers have bet big on George helping them bring one home.
Last December, according to Spotrac, George signed a four-year $176 million extension with L.A., which means that, barring a trade or George exercising his year-four player option, the seven-time All-Star will remain a Clipper through the 2024-25 season.
PG Has Said Much the Same Before
Some fans, however, are hesitant to see any value in George making heartfelt proclamations about his future. After all, he made similar noises while with the Pacers and Thunder, only to bounce shortly thereafter.
I like PG but he said the same thing in OKC so I have a little doubt lol.
— Keven Najarro (@KevenN52) April 24, 2021
Okay how about he doesn’t talk about retirement lmao just talk about the present year and this Clippers team, he shouldn’t talk about retirement as if he’s going to retire in the next 5 years 😂
— Matthew Alexandrescu 🐅 (@MattA_17) April 24, 2021
In June of 2017, with one year to go on his Pacers contract and amidst relentless media chatter that George was looking for an exit ramp, George told reporters “it’s all about bringing a championship to Indiana.”
“I’m under contract as a Pacer,” George said. “That’s all that needs to really be known. I’m here. I’m a Pacer. Again, what I’ve been dealing with is stories. You guys talking or teams talking. I’m a Pacer. There’s no way around that. This is my team, my group and this is where I’m at.”
Buy only a month later, in July, George all but forced a trade from Indiana to play alongside superstar point guard Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City.
The following offseason, despite the Thunder being bumped off by Utah in the first round of the 2018 playoffs, George signed a four-year, $137 million max deal with Oklahoma City. At the time, in his end-of-season exit interview, George explained his decision to return to the Thunder as a reaction to the organization providing all the necessities for a prolonged stay:
I haven’t been in a position to be a free agent or know what that is like and then to have the chance to go where you want to go. That’s always been, I feel with players, they want that option. But then you go into an organization where they kind of check the boxes on all the things that you want out of an organization, and then immediately they become a candidate to where you want to play long-term.
So that was the case. That’s been the case here. They honestly check the boxes where I needed those boxes to be checked from what a player wants and needs out of a front office, out of a medical group, out of teammates, out of coaching staff. I mean, honestly, they can’t say it anymore [than] that. They checked the boxes on what needs to be checked.
Another Change of Heart
But George had another change of heart in the summer of 2019, asking for a trade to the Los Angeles Clippers (to play with recently acquired Kawhi Leonard) after the Thunder were once again eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.
“This was nothing that came out of the blue; we were all on the same page,” George told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols. “The initial plan was to give it another year, see what we could do and I did that. We played another year and it felt like we were just stagnant. Next thing was, let’s move forward with other plans.”
The truth is, there’s nothing wrong with a player showing enthusiasm for his current team but ultimately wanting to leave for a more advantageous situation (George has never minced words about a championship being his ultimate goal). And there’s even good reason to believe he will stick this time with the Clippers. L.A. is his hometown and the Clippers were his boyhood team, not to mention that George has been amazing this season and L.A. has all the makings of a serious contender for years to come.
But maybe, for his own sake and for the sake of long-suffering Clippers fans, George should think twice before making grand proclamations about his future.
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