Paul George has come out and insisted that he is the number two scoring option to Kawhi Leonard on the Los Angeles Clippers in the aftermath of their narrow preseason loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
George and Leonard both struggled on the offensive end in their second game together ahead of the new campaign, as they both continue to get themselves back up to full speed, having not played with one another since the 2021 Conference Semifinals. Despite that, there are no doubts about their ability to lead the team to a big season.
With locker room interviews making their return at least for now, the seven-time All Star was asked if they were taking inspiration from other star wing duos throughout the league’s history. George referenced the one-two punch of LeBron James and Dwayne Wade in Miami, but was in no doubt as to his role within his own tandem and on this team.
“Listen, Kawhi is the number one and I’m totally fine with that. I think I try to, I guess, complement him with being able to take the load off of him. You know, everybody says ‘Kawhi, you are one and one, 1A, 1B. I’ll publicly say, I’m the two. You know, Kawhi’s the one, I’m the two. So that part we nipped in the bud, like there’s no ego when it comes to that.”
"Kawhi is the No. 1, and I'm totally fine with that. I try to complement him to take the load off of him. I'll publicly say I'm the 2. That part we nipped in the bud. There's no ego when it comes to that. That being said, I believe in my talent and what I can do."— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) October 10, 2022
Paul George pic.twitter.com/WgRb63MTYa
It’s refreshing to hear from a player good enough to be the leading light on most NBA teams, and it’s a sentiment which bodes well for the Clippers’ chances of success this season. Not only will that mentality aid George in his evolution as a playmaker, it also represents a culture that has been built within the organization and is personified by one of that culture’s architects.
After John Wall expressed his satisfaction at being able to play as Robin rather than his usual Batman, George’s admission feels like the latest show of the lack of ego present within the squad. It’s a rarity for a squad so stacked with talent to not have to worry about disagreements over roles and playing time, owing to the good work that has been done by Ty Lue and his staff to get everybody on the same page.
This atmosphere is a far cry from the days of the NBA bubble, when dressing room discontent spilled out onto the court and saw the Clippers fall from favorites to flops. Since then, everybody has bought into a ‘next man up’ mentality, meaning guys stay ready for the moment they’re called upon and don’t upset the apple cart even if they’re made to wait a while and work extra hard for those opportunities.
While there is still competition for places, evidenced by Norman Powell insisting he wants to be both a starter and an All-Star this season, it would appear to be healthy as guys understand that they have to earn their spots and nobody’s spot is guaranteed outside of the two top stars. It’s good news, therefore, that one of their biggest stars knows he doesn’t have to be the main guy to carry some of the load and do so in a way which enables others to shine.
With a growing number of young guys supplementing a veteran roster, it bodes well for the future that those lacking experience at the top level get to learn from a core of humble stars doing what is best for the team. That’s reason enough to be excited about the direction the franchise is heading, while they have all the tools in the present day to launch a real title challenge.