There’s something about an extra $190 million that makes you feel beholden to deliver.
Paul George signed a four-year max extension with the Clippers Thursday, one that kicks in next season and will lock him in Los Angeles for years (the reporting of this as a $226 million contract includes the current year he was already signed for). George is taking a lot of Steve Ballmer’s money (maybe not relatively), and it’s clear he feels an obligation.
“I owe them a trophy,” George said. “I owe them a trophy. That’s what I owe this organization. This is a window that we’re trying to capture. My commitment and my job is to being a title here.”
George said he showed commitment to an organization that had been committed to him.
“Them sending the house to come grab me showed their commitment to win and wanting to put a winning team out there…” George said of the trade that brought him from Oklahoma City to the Clippers (Los Angeles gave up Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, and five first-round draft picks).
“This is home. I want to build a real foundation. For my legacy, this is where I want to leave the bigger imprint.”
This signing takes one big question mark about next offseason off the table for Los Angeles. For a team that had locker room chemistry issues last season, it also sets a clear pecking order and points what direction the Clippers are heading.
George missed the start of last season as his shoulders recovered from surgery, but he went on to have a strong regular season, with 21.5 points and 5.7 rebounds a game, shooting 41.2% from three, and playing at an All-Star level. Fans tend to forget that because Paul struggled in the bubble and during the playoffs — he scored 20.2 points a game but needed 17 shots a night to get there, shot 33.3% from three, and in games that mattered he was hitting the side of the backboard with shots. Fans jumped all over George’s self-give “Playoff P” nickname — he was Pandemic P on social media — and Clipper fans were frustrated. George admitted he struggled with depression in the bubble.
George had some strong playoff performances back in Indiana, the Clippers ultimately need that version of George next to Kawhi Leonard to compete with that team down the hall at Staples Center.
Speaking of Leonard, he also is in the final year of his contract, he also pushed his way back to Los Angeles. Leonard is not extension eligible, he will be a free agent next offseason, but is George working on getting him to stay?
“The responsibility is to make him feel like I felt when I came into my extension. I knew where I wanted to be…” George said. “My hope, responsibility, and what I would love is to play with him for the rest of my contract or the rest of his contract…
“I won’t put words in another person’s mouth, but I’m hopeful. He’s one of the guys that I talked to and wanted to inform.”
If the Clippers lock up Leonard, too, it keeps them as potential contenders for the next few years. Then it’s just up to Tyronn Lue and company to figure out how to fix the chemistry issues both on and off the court for the Clippers.
But the Clippers have locked up one star, and that’s a smart move for the franchise (even if they might ultimately regret the last year of the deal, it’s worth it if they win now).