After spending the first few weeks of season on the sideline as he recovered from shoulder surgery, Paul George made his highly-anticipated debut for the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night, and he didn’t disappoint. Despite the fact that he hadn’t played in a game in nearly seven months, George didn’t show discernible signs of rust. He actually looked like his regular self as he posted 33 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists against the New Orleans Pelicans. His 33 points were the third-highest total for a debut in franchise history.
Piling up numbers is one thing, but George was efficient and aggressive too; something that isn’t always the case with players fresh off of an extended absence eager to make their mark on a season. He scored from all three levels on the offensive end, as he was 10-for-17 from the floor, 3-for-5 from three-point range, and 10-for-10 from the foul line. Basically he showed off the full repertoire, and he did all of that in just 24 minutes of action.
You can see highlight of his Clippers debut below, via the Clippers:
Ultimately, George’s efforts weren’t enough to lead L.A. to a victory over the scrappy Pelicans, but the final outcome wasn’t the biggest story from this game for the Clippers. The fact that George looked healthy and comfortable in his first action of the season was the main takeaway. The Clippers made major waves over the offseason by landing both George and Kawhi Leonard, as the additions caused many to pick them as title favorites. On Thursday night, George provided a glimpse of why.
Leonard didn’t play against the Pelicans, but the potential of him and George as a duo is tantalizing. Both can defend at the highest level. Both can carry an offense and score from virtually anywhere on the court. Together, they will be able to torment teams on both ends of the floor, and both will take pressure off of the other one. Leonard won’t necessarily need to carry the team on the offensive end like he had to at times in Toronto last year, especially when you factor in Lou Williams‘ ability to put the ball in the basket coming off of the bench. Likewise, George won’t have to be the top offensive option every night. Now, the next step if for George and Leonard to get out on the floor together.
Despite the solid numbers that he posted, George wasn’t especially happy with his first game in a Clippers uniform.
“I thought I was terrible,” George said after the game. “I got a lot to get back to just from my performance, my defense and just for the flow of the game and then just, I haven’t had any time to get a feel for this speed in a long time. It’s just good to get this one under my belt.”
While George’s definition of “terrible” is apparently a loose one, it is understandable that he wouldn’t feel great during his first game in months. Still, the fact that he was able to be so productive is impressive. When he gets his rhythm back, and is flanked by Leonard, the rest of the league could be in trouble.