Playoff P? Yeah, Not so Much
Paul George still doesn't understand what it means to be a superstar in the NBA. After the Nuggets blew out the Clippers in Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals, George said:
Even in a whacked-out COVID-19 season, true champions don't choke away a 3-1 lead to a lower-seeded team. George was anything but a gamer, scoring 10 points on 4/16 shooting (2/11 from three) in 38 minutes. A far cry from his 36 in 42 against the Trailblazers in Game 5 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals a year ago.
When George asked to be traded last summer, it was not only an opportunity to go home. It was him saying that he and Russell Westbrook had run their course, and the Thunder, with its limited cap space, wasn't going to help him win a championship.
Sam Presti granted his wish and sent him to Los Angeles to work with Kawhi Leonard, Doc Rivers, and perennial 6th man of the year Lou Willams. The Clippers became a chic pick to win the O'Brien trophy.
But, something funny happened on the way to building a dynasty; Denver not only had other plans, but Playoff P forgot to show up when it counted the most.
George was nothing but cordial during his time in Oklahoma City; he was active in the community, and had he not had shoulder issues, he may very well have won the MVP in 2019. There is no dislike for him, but he is a lesson in knowing who you are.
Before being acquired by the Thunder, George let the Indiana Pacers know he wouldn't be re-signing after the 2018 season when his contract was up. His preferred destination was the Lakers. However, Presti worked his magic. George, with one year left on his contract, came to the Thunder to join Westbrook and, eventually, Carmelo Anthony.
Anthony never adjusted to his role in Oklahoma City, and even though they were knocked out in the first-round playoffs, George re-upped for 4-years and $137,000,000. There is an excellent chance Presti would have still been forced to break up the Thunder due to age and lack of cap room, but George would have been out of the major market spotlight for at least another season.
Much like Kevin Durant, George doesn't seem to be able to handle life outside the Thunder's cocoon. Durant may have two championships to his name, but he also has a trail of burner accounts to fight with critics on Twitter.
George had everything he could want in Oklahoma City, ample fishing spots, great bowling alleys, fans who adored him, and, most of all, an organization that would shield him from any media backlash over his shortcomings. Until George can get the Clippers to the Western Conference Finals, the scrutiny will be turned up to a volume that will make even a Metallica concert seem quiet.
George made his choice, now he has to live with the consequences. Players don't need championships to be great; that's an argument for the Michael Jordan sycophants who can't stand to see their hero be forgotten over time.
What players need is a place to thrive, and George had that in Indiana and Oklahoma City; by wanting out of both, he's now in line to be just another guy who couldn't win the big one in a big market.
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With more than 20 years of experience hosting local and national radio shows, Erik Gee is a fixture of Oklahoma sports media. He has covered the Oklahoma City Thunder for the past six seasons. He is also the co-host of the Pat Jones show on 97.1 The Sports Animal in Tulsa.