LA Clippers star Paul George made a big return from injury on Tuesday night, putting up 34 points in the comeback win over Utah. His performance was inspiring, but so was his desire to return. With just a couple weeks left in the season, Ty Lue said after the game that George had every excuse to just continue his rehab and wait until next season to make his return. For his teammates, the fans, and Kobe Bryant, Paul George had other plans.
During his on-court interview after the game, George said, "Having an idol like Kobe Bryant who plays through stuff like this… when I finish I wanna look at my career and say I gave everything I had." Paul George and Kobe Bryant had a close personal relationship, as the two worked out together during PG's rise to stardom. George has frequently cited Kobe as his favorite player growing up, and he truly leaned into that inspiration when fighting to return from injury this season.
George also listed his teammates as motivation to return, saying that "It was a lot on Mook’s shoulders, it was a lot on Reggie’s shoulders, Nico, Zu… that’s really where the motivation and determination to come back comes from." Between Kobe's inspiration and a desire to return for his teammates, there was never a doubt in Paul George's mind that he would be back on the court this year.
The LA Clippers are likely going to finish 8th in the Western Conference, which gives them an opportunity to make the playoffs through the play-in tournament. Should they do so, and should Paul George maintain this level of play, there isn't a team atop the Western Conference that would be pleased to draw them as a first-round opponent.