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Clippings: Paul George is up to the challenge of rewriting his narrative

He knows people will be talking about him after the way last season ended.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Phoenix Suns Billy Hardiman-USA TODAY Sports

During the fourth quarter of LA’s win over Phoenix Sunday, there was some extra-curricular activity between Paul George and Devin Booker. Both players got assessed with technical fouls, and the game could have gotten away from the Clippers with their lead trimmed to four.

But George didn’t wilt. He stayed on the floor for the rest of the fourth quarter, other than the final 1.3 seconds after he fouled out. George scored five more points out of the team’s 14 and assisted on another three to Nic Batum that put the game out of reach. He did that all while shepherding the Clippers’ defensive effort that limited the Suns to 13 more points.

On a court with three other All-Stars, George controlled the game, something he has done for the Clippers throughout the season. He knows his season didn’t end the way he wanted it to last year — it didn’t even start well, as he missed the All-Star Game for the first time since 2015 — and people have been taking shots at him with increasing regularity. It started with the Portland Trail Blazers, and it’s continuing with the Suns, who got the better of the Clippers in the bubble, albeit in a relatively meaningless seeding game for L.A.

“I had a tough year last year,” George told Jim Jackson postgame on the Clippers broadcast. “People think it’s sweet, man, people think it’s sweet cuz I was down. I didn’t hear none of this in my 10 years in the league, but last year, people living on that last year, and I gotta answer to that. I gotta answer to that, I gotta be ready for that, and I’m ready to compete. I’m back.”

It’s a similar tone that George has taken throughout the offseason: accountability. When he signed a five-year extension to remain with the Clippers, he said he owed the team a trophy. When the team hasn’t been ready to play, he has taken the blame on his back as the leader. There aren’t excuses this year, and George isn’t trying to make them. He is simply playing at an MVP level and letting his play carry this group.

“I don’t talk, I play my game,” George said about the altercation with Booker and Chris Paul. “For whatever reason, it’s dudes talking. Like, never heard people talking, and it’s never been directed towards me, but for some reason it’s a lot of mouth. And it’s fine. I got to play up to that. I’ll go through the fire. It’s fine. As long as we come out on top and we win and I am helping my team win. That’s all that matters. Save the rest, they can do what they want. I’m locked in and it’s more so about me being at peace and at ease.”

George has been able to rise above and do his talking with his game thus far, but it’s only seven games into the season. More chirping will inevitably be coming his way. The Clippers hope he remains up for that challenge.

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