Paul George won’t be leaving Los Angeles anytime soon. The former All-Star forward has signed a contract extension with the Clippers, the team announced Thursday. The deal, which will pay him $190 million over four years, kicks in after this season and runs through 2025, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
George’s current contract had a player option for next season, and he could have opted out and become an unrestricted free agent in the summer. Now, he’s committed to the Clippers long term, which gives the franchise some much-needed security with one of their two stars. The next step, of course, is convincing Kawhi Leonard to do the same.
The Clippers were the darlings of the basketball world last summer, when they pulled off a brilliant double-move to bring in George and Leonard. But what was supposed to be a new super team in L.A. never really got on track. Though they finished the regular season with the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, that was more through sheer talent rather than being a cohesive unit. In the bubble, everything fell apart in the second round of the playoffs as they blew a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets.
Since then, there’s been some massive changes around the Clippers. Doc Rivers was removed as head coach and replaced by Ty Lue, while in free agency Montrezl Harrell and JaMychal Green left, and Serge Ibaka arrived. There’s also been multiple media cycles rehashing what went wrong last season, including damning reports and public finger pointing.
George, perhaps unsurprisingly, was in the middle of all of it. He struggled for much of the playoffs, and was a no-show in Game 7 against the Nuggets, putting up 10 points on 4 of 16 from the field. Since then, reports have indicated a lack of respect for George in the locker room from other players, which was perhaps in part due to reported preferential treatment that he and Leonard received from the franchise.
If that wasn’t enough, George publicly blamed Rivers for not using him correctly.
“The way I was being used, I felt Doc was trying to play me as like a Ray Allen or like a JJ Redick, all pin-downs. I can do it, but that ain’t my game,” George said on the “All The Smoke” podcast. “I need some flow, I need some mixes of pick-and-rolls, I need some post-ups, just different touches, you know what I mean? That last season was just hard overall.”
He also criticized Rivers for failing to make adjustments against the Nuggets.
“At the end of the day I don’t think we deserved it,” George continued. “We wasn’t prepared enough going into it — just us making adjustments standpoint. We wasn’t prepared. We didn’t put the work into it. It was kind of just like, ‘Yo, we got P.G., we got Kawhi, we got [Lou Williams], [Montrezl Harrell]. We gonna be straight. We gonna figure it out.'”
In response, Rivers said everyone needed to accept some responsibility, and foreshadowed the potential for continued issues in L.A.
“So not a lot to say there,” Rivers said. “Ty Lue was sitting right next to me. So he better hope it’s not adjustments. It ain’t going to be much different … Listen, we lost the game. I think everybody needs to take ownership. [Me] obviously. We can always do better. Players can play better. So as far as I’m concerned, I’ll leave it there.”
George can play better than he did in the playoffs, and the Clippers’ decision to give him another $190 million over four years shows how confident they are in him. But as last season proved, the mere presence of George and Leonard is no guarantee of a championship.