After entering last season with the loftiest expectations in franchise history, the Los Angeles Clippers suffered one of the most painful playoff exits imaginable, losing three consecutive games in nearly identical fashion to blow a 3-1 series lead to the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference semifinals. Bringing in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George prior to the season was supposed to signal a monumental shift in Clippers history, but instead the unceremonious postseason disappointment only heightened the mythos of the "Clipper curse."
One casualty of the debacle was Doc Rivers, who was fired by the Clippers two weeks after the loss to the Nuggets and later became the head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers. While there is plenty of blame to go around, George clearly had some issues with Rivers' coaching style, as he explained to Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson on Showtime's "All The Smoke" podcast, set to air Dec. 10.
First George discussed how he felt he was improperly used in the Clippers offense.
"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. "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."
Obviously George has much more insight into his role than we do, but from an outside perspective the numbers don't seem to match up to what he's suggesting. George had fewer catch-and-shoot attempts per game last season than he did during his breakout 2018-19 campaign in Oklahoma City. He also had the exact same number of post-ups per game and more possessions as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, according to NBA.com. George did have significantly fewer isolations last season, however, and performed worse in those situations, going from 0.92 points per possession in 2018-19 to 0.75 with the Clippers.
|Paul George per game||Catch/Shoot att.||Post-up poss.||PnR poss.||Iso poss.|
George also emphatically stated what most noticed during the Nuggets series -- that the Clippers failed to make significant adjustments, even amid their eventual collapse. The comments about lack of preparation seem to once again be pointed in Rivers' direction, though he doesn't state that specifically.
"We went up 3-1. We felt like, we gonna win the next one. We lost. We like, 'Cool, we up 3-2, we gonna win the next one.' We lost. But during that whole process, we never worked on adjustments," George said. "We never worked on what to do differently. We were just literally having the same s--- happen over and over again. It started to play a trick on you, like, man what's going on? We talking amongst each other, the conversations like, 'We gonna be alright.' The conversations should have been like, 'Nah, we need to change this. We need to switch this up.'
"At the end of the day I don't think we deserved it. 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 PG, we got Kawhi, we got [Lou Williams], [Montrezl Harrell]. We gonna be straight. We gonna figure it out.' "
No matter the cause of last season's disappointment, the Clippers have tremendous pressure on themselves to turn things around this year -- particularly with both George and Leonard able to become free agents next offseason. It will be interesting to see how new Clippers head coach Ty Lue utilizes George, given that he was clearly unhappy with his offensive role last season.