The rumors of Paul George coming to play in Los Angeles have existed ever since he left Fresno State to declare for the 2010 NBA Draft. George was born in Palmdale and grew up in southern California rooting for stars on both the Lakers and the Clippers, so playing professionally near his hometown was always in the back of his mind.
As he told former Clippers Darius Miles and Quentin Richardson on the “Knuckleheads” podcast, the possibility of joining the Clippers emerged during pre-draft workouts:
“I had a really good workout for Minnesota, and they had the fourth pick. They picked Wes, I think, Wesley Johnson, but I thought I had a great workout with them, so in my mind I’m thinking I can go fourth, that’s best-case scenario. Then the Clippers had the eighth pick and I thought I had a pretty good workout that workout, so I’m like, alright cool, fourth/eighth, I should be cool in that area.”
The Clippers ended up picking Al-Farouq Aminu with the eighth pick, and employed Johnson for a few of seasons as well, before finally connecting with George down the line, once he had already established himself as an All-Star and an All-NBA player in both Indiana and Oklahoma City. It’s safe to say that draft worked out better for George than it did for the Clippers.
The Lakers tried very hard to lure George to Los Angeles as a free agent in the summer of 2018, but it wasn’t until Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers laid out the red carpet for George during the 2019 offseason that the local boy found his way home. With the situation the Clippers have, George feels like he was fated to be here at this point in his career.
“It’s been great, I feel like everything aligned at the right time. Year 10 for me, I’m playing with a Hall of Fame coach, I’m playing with a Hall of Fame player — multiple of them, man you could have a case for Lou [Williams] being a Hall of Fame player, too, with his career. I just feel like everything lined up, I’m back at home, it’s easy on my mom, my parents, I just feel like everything was positioned where it was supposed to be for year 10 for me.”
Another reason why landing with the Clippers made the most sense for George is the leadership at the top, specifically the impact Steve Ballmer has had on this franchise. Doc Rivers spoke about how the Clippers wanted to win when he became coach in spite of their owner. Now George says the players want to win for Ballmer.
“He’s always a part of us. After games, he waits in the hallway, when we finish our games, he high-fives us. We feel like he’s a part of us. He’s not the owner — he’s a part of this team, so it’s a real joy to go out and want to play for him, you know what I mean, want to do well for him, want to bring a championship to him because of everything that he’s done for us and how much he’s involved.”
It’s unclear if the Clippers will have a chance to win a championship this year, even as the league marches forward with its plans to resume the season as Walt Disney World, but that doesn’t change George’s mindset. He’s in a good place personally and professionally and ready to represent this franchise on the court whenever the opportunity presents itself.
It only ten years, but George and the Clippers are on the same page at last.