In Game 4 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz, Kawhi Leonard fell to a knee injury that will reportedly keep him out the remaining of the Western Conference Semi Finals (and far longer). If that’s the case, the Clippers are going to have to lean on Paul George even more so, as having Leonard out of the lineup is a key missing piece in LA’s success.
George is one of the best players in the league, there is no doubt about that. However, he has received some flack over the years. First it was the melt down while he played for the Indiana Pacers, blaming his teammates and not taking responsibility as a leader. Then he went to the Oklahoma City Thunder and played beside Russell Westbrook, which was nothing more than a two year stint with the organization. While with the Thunder, Paul George nicknamed himself “Playoff P,” during a press conference before playing the Utah Jazz in 2018.
Since then, George’s nickname has become a bit of a joke amongst NBA fans. Not only did he give himself the name, but George hasn’t lived up to expectations. For that reasons, fans call him Playoff P ironically whenever he makes a mistake on the court, or has an off night.
He joined the Los Angeles Clippers in the 2019-20 season to play as the second superstar alongside Kawhi Leonard. It seems to have been Kawhi’s team from the beginning, while George serves as a high-end secondary option for the organization. He plays well in his role in Los Angeles, as he and Leonard have become a deadly duo in the NBA.
Now, in the 2021 NBA Playoffs, Kawhi Leonard has fallen to injury and Paul George is left as the lone superstar in Los Angeles. This isn’t something new to George, as during his time with the Pacers, he was viewed as the superstar for the team to lean on. That was early on in Paul George’s career. He’s grown since then and now plays for a team where the spotlight is even larger.
The series between the Clippers and the Jazz is currently tied at 2-2. Utah entered the NBA Playoffs as the first seed, while Los Angeles came in as the fourth. The Clippers are the underdogs for the remainder of this series, which has created a career changing opportunity for Paul George.
After spending years being viewed as someone who vanishes in the playoffs, George now has a chance to change that narrative. If he can lead the Clippers to advancing to the next round by defeating the Utah Jazz, the perception of Paul George would become vastly different. He suddenly becomes a superior leader on the court once again. Fans would no longer see Paul George as Kawhi Leonard’s sidekick, but rather, his equal. Playoff P would turn from ironic, to legitimate.
Considering the Clippers don’t have perennial scorers outside of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the supporting cast will have to elevate their game to a new level as well. However, George is even more in the spotlight than ever before and must raise his game to new heights. If he does, the Clippers could find themselves advancing and George’s narrative changes completely.