Paul George ‘totally fine’ being Clippers’ No. 2 behind Kawhi Leonard

LOS ANGELES — Paul George shed all ego and made it clear that Kawhi Leonard is the LA Clippers No. 1 and second in the all-star duo’s pecking order.

As they head into their fourth season along with championship expectations, George was asked if there were any previous championship wing tandems that he and Leonard could use as a possible blueprint.

“Yes, look at them [Miami Heat] Wing Wings DWade [Dwyane Wade] and LeBron]James],” George said Sunday after the Clippers’ 119-117 preseason loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves at Crypto.com Arena. “I think it just boils down to this – listen, Kawhi is No. 1. And I totally agree with that. I think I try to complement him by being able to relieve him.

“Everyone’s like, ‘Kawhi [and] you are 1 and 1, [or] 1A, 1B.” I’m going to say publicly I’m 2. Kawhi is 1, I’m 2. So we nipped that part in the bud. Like there’s no ego when it comes to that.”

This is a pivotal season for Leonard and George, who are looking to embark on their first trip to the NBA Finals together since they teamed up with the Clippers in the summer of 2019.

Describing how he and George grew together as leaders and their dynamic as a duo, Leonard pointed to their “real relationship.”

“We’re both selfless,” Leonard said. “My 12th year, his 13th year … we’ve been through this before so I feel like those years are behind us and obviously like I said we have a real relationship and it’s just continuing [into how we lead].”

The Clippers’ season opener against the Los Angeles Lakers on Oct. 20 will be the duo’s first meaningful game since Leonard torn his right cruciate ligament in Game 4 of the second round playoff series Los Angeles vs. Utah on June 14, 2021 . George picked up the load and led the Clippers to their first-ever Western Conference Finals appearance this postseason without Leonard.

With Leonard missing the entire 2021-22 season, George wore the Clippers until suffering an elbow injury to his shooting arm that kept him away for three months. He came back late in the regular season but missed the Clippers’ second and final play-in game due to COVID-19.

Since teaming up in LA, George and Leonard have played a total of 104 regular season and postseason games together. Now the two are again sharing the spot with George, who has been the Clippers’ top-scoring option since June 2021. And George says he’ll be perfectly fine with Leonard returning to the first option role.

“I believe in my talent and what I can do,” George said. “And every night I believe in what I’m capable of. But I feel that it’s my job to make everyone better. That’s what I try to do when I’m down, just close the game for everyone whether it’s creating or just being aggressive… and reading from that.

“I think we’ll achieve a lot if everyone just knows their role and what we’re bringing to the table. Everything else is easy, we just roll out the ball and tackle.”

George and other teammates say Leonard has expressed joy at being back after spending the past 13-14 months building and strengthening his knee. Clippers trainer Ty Lue says his reticent star has opened up even more.

“I mean, I missed a whole year because I missed basketball,” Leonard said. “I went down in a playoff run in one of the worst ways. I just don’t want to take anything for granted and just try to live in the moment and bring a sense of energy to the team.”

“I’m still young,” added Leonard, who is 31. “So any chance of that being taken away from you and you feeling like you’re not done… You just miss it, you know what I mean?”

https://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/34766315/paul-george-totally-fine-being-clippers-no-2-kawhi-leonard Paul George ‘totally fine’ being Clippers’ No. 2 behind Kawhi Leonard

Emma Bowman

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