PG13: ‘Frustrating’ to watch clips derailed by injuries

PG13: 'Frustrating' to watch clips derailed by injuries

PHOENIX — Hours before the LA Clippers tried to keep their season alive without two of their franchise stars in Game 5, Paul George said it’s been “super frustrating” to see another Clippers season killed by injuries.

Speaking to reporters for the first time since spraining his right knee on March 21, George said both he and Kawhi Leonard are frustrated that the Clippers won’t be able to live up to their championship-contending potential again due to injuries. The Clippers will try to avoid elimination against the Phoenix Suns in Game 5 on Tuesday night, trailing 3-1 in their best-of-7 series.

“It’s extremely frustrating,” George said at the Clippers’ shootaround. “To put so much into a season, put so much into this group and organization, put so much into building a team that can compete and again, year after year to just be plagued by injuries, it’s frustrating.

“That wasn’t the reason I came here, I know that wasn’t the reason [Kawhi] came here We obviously had big plans to win and do something special for Clipper Nation but I’m a big believer in everything and everything happens for a reason and you just pick up the pieces and try to make a hand out of what you’re dealt with… I am very optimistic that our time will come.”

It’s year 4 of the Leonard-George era with the Clippers, and the superstar duo didn’t figure to get out of the first round with either side watching.

Leonard has not played since Game 2 because of a sprained right knee he suffered in Game 1. Leonard played in that Game 2, but the injury worsened and will keep him out for the third straight game. The injury was a tough pill to swallow for Leonard, who missed the entire 2021-22 season with a torn right ACL and had to back up all season to stay healthy in the playoffs. He averaged 34.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 6.0 assists in the first two games of the series.

“It was really hard,” George said of how Leonard felt. “And I think what people don’t realize is Kawhi is a trooper, man. Kawhi is willing to put it on the line. The fact that he got hurt in Game 1, he tried to play through Game 2 and people believed That he is out. Because he doesn’t want to play. I think it just attacks his character, where people don’t understand.

“He’ll play through it [if he can]. There is a reason it is out. And he wants to be out there with us and he wants to be out there to lead … I know it hurts him not being able to be on the floor and continue to step up the way he has been.”

With Leonard and George out, Russell Westbrook has exceeded all expectations the Clippers had when they added a point guard at the All-Star break following a contract buyout from Utah. George lobbied heavily for the Clippers to add this former Oklahoma City teammate, and the All-Star said the team needs Westbrook next season.

Westbrook entered Game 5 with 26 points, 7.5 rebounds, 7.3 assists while shooting 40.9% from 3-point range in the first four games of the series, potentially increasing his value on the free agent market this summer.

“He’s played himself back to what he was in Russia,” George said of the former MVP point guard. “We all knew he still had it. There were definitely some decisions to be made [in the offseason for Westbrook to consider]. I definitely convinced him to come here. I definitely recommend it to come back.

“He brings so much to his team and I mean, it’s amazing to watch. He’s bigger than me and he’s putting his body on the line. He’s literally giving our franchise everything it’s got during this playoff run. . I think he’s a leader. That’s what we need at the point guard position going forward and we’d love to have him back.”

George is making progress in on-court workouts but says his injury requires at least six weeks before returning. Tuesday marked five weeks since he suffered the injury on March 21 against Oklahoma City.

“I haven’t hit the six-week mark yet,” George said. “So it’s definitely going to be a decision and I’m going to have to see and say, I’m either going to give it a try or see if we can get through it and be a full force in the second round.”

“It’s always a risk,” George said when asked if he could make his injury worse by returning too quickly. “The six-week mark was the earliest, which was pretty aggressive for the injury I had. So there’s a big concern or a big risk of coming back too soon… There are some limitations. I know there’s been some pain from there. Playing and rebuilding that muscle memory stuff. So it’s honestly just taking it one day at a time and see where I go from there.”

However, George has no doubt that he and Leonard still have time to accomplish the goal of winning a championship with the Clippers and that next season will not be championship or bust.

“I think I’ve had a lot of good years,” George, 32, said. I know Kawhi thinks he has a lot of good years in him. I’m not going to put any pressure on him anytime soon.

“… It’s very disappointing [being injured] And it sucks. It really sucks. So we are not looking to go next year yet. I believe the boys are still good enough to win this series and go beyond this series and I will be able to join them at some point.”

Although George and Leonard have played just 38 games together this season — the Clippers were a combined 24-14 with their two stars on the court — the All-Star said he knows the potential of what they can do when healthy. .

“We had a short window [together this season],” George said. “We’ve seen when we’re at our best with everyone healthy and what we’re capable of. A small window of not being able to put it all together for a long period of time. But I think it’s enough to move forward and be very optimistic about what we can become in the coming years.”

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