There were certain things you could expect in the Clippers’ preseason opener.
Reggie Jackson would get shots up early. Terance Mann would bring energy. Justise Winslow would make an impact defensively. Things might get a little sloppy without Paul George, Nicolas Batum, and Marcus Morris Sr. unavailable. All of that came to pass.
One takeaway that came out of nowhere? George King looking like the most comfortable Clipper on the court. And yet, for stretches, the No. 59 pick from the 2018 NBA Draft did just that.
King’s NBA experience consists of six minutes for Phoenix in 2018 in which he logged no stats other than defensive rebound. Lawrence Frank and Ty Lue haven’t even mentioned him when discussing the team’s 15th roster spot. But King was ready to play and finished second on the team with 12 points despite playing the third-fewest minutes.
“George seems like a veteran,” Lue said postgame. “I don’t know how old he is or whatever. But he comes in the gym every morning. He’s there 7 o’clock, working on his game, working on his body. He’s one of the guys I have to kick off the floor every day because he’s always working. You love to see that from a young guy.”
King isn’t that young — at age 27, he’s older than 12 players on the Clippers preseason roster. He is fighting for his NBA life, though, and he didn’t waste any time in his first NBA action since his two-way contract with Phoenix ended in 2019. King scored within 42 seconds of entering the game on a 45 cut, earning an and-one in the process.
He followed that up with three 3-pointers, tying Reggie Jackson and Michael Porter Jr. for most in the game. King’s jumper looked confident and smooth throughout, a rarity this early in the preseason.
King also showed a lot of toughness defensively, whether that was guarding Denver off the inbounds or sprinting back in transition. He had one of the plays of the game in the third quarter, when Austin Rivers tried to set up Bol Bol for a highlight dunk on the break. King was behind the play, having set up in the corner on offense, but he ran the length of the floor to deflect the pass. It didn’t register on the stat sheet, even though that effort likely saved two points in a one-point Clippers win.
“He has a dog in him,” Lue said. “Picking up full court, like step on the floor, and pick up Monte Morris full court at the point guard slot. And just how he competes defensively, I mean, just says a lot about him.”
King has an uphill battle to make the Clippers roster. All he can do is take advantage of the minutes he’s given and show what he’s capable of, whether that’s for this front office or 29 others around the league. His performance came as a surprise Monday; now his goal is to show that effort was no fluke.
More news for Tuesday:
- A short film called “NBA Lane” celebrating the 75 years of the league’s history will premiere on Oct. 7. Kawhi Leonard and Chuck the Condor are among those featured.
- John Hollinger has a surprising outlook on the Clippers’ regular season.
- ESPN has an NBA injury roundup for the start of preseason. One important update: Serge Ibaka has now been cleared for contact, as Ty Lue announced before Monday’s game.
- Dan Devine has the Clippers in his eight teams that could win a title this year.
- Loved this conversation between Lisa Byington and Kate Scott, who will be the first two female broadcasters in NBA history this season.
- Kevin Pelton dives into the number of minutes rotation players see the court in the preseason.