Paul George had just finished hoisting shots after the first day of Clippers training camp on the University of Hawaii campus when he sauntered over to chat with Jerry West.
The two spoke off to the side, with George doing most of the listening, his eyes riveted on West as the Clippers consultant spoke.
For George, who remains limited in practice because he’s recovering from surgery on both shoulders, getting words of wisdom from West has been “awesome.” It reminds him of his time playing for the Indiana Pacers, when Larry Bird, who was the team’s president, would have conversations with the 6-foot-9 forward.
“I’ve been blessed to share a lot of great moments with legends, people in my corner — Larry Bird, Jerry West now,” George said Tuesday. “Just cherish those moments and any little gem that they can share and give and pass off, you take it. You take it and you try to use it and you can see how it benefits and see how it meshes with your game.
“But [West has] been in my ear since I’ve gotten here, just giving little details and insights on what he’s seeing that I can do better in the season and keep expanding on it. So it’s awesome to share and cherish those moments. For me, I look forward to seeing him walk over and seeing what he saw and how he can help me.”
Mentally, George said he’s in a good place with how he is approaching his practice restrictions, knowing that the offseason surgeries to repair a small labrum tear in his left shoulder and a partially torn tendon in his right shoulder would push his recovery into training camp and beyond. He has to avoid contract and “live drills,” coach Doc Rivers said.
“I’m just approaching it to continue to get better, continue to rehab, continue to get stronger,” George said. “…I’m engaged whether I’m on the court with them, listening up, following along. When they are doing their thing, I’m on the side working out, getting my work in. So I’m just trying to catch up and get on their speed when time calls for me to get back out there.”
Rivers said George probably won’t do a live drill for “at least for another week or two.” There is no rush, Rivers said, because the Clippers want to make sure the prize they acquired from the Oklahoma City Thunder is fully healthy to play along their other prize forward in Kawhi Leonard.
“[George is] playing on the side with no contact, one on one,” Rivers said. “But it must be frustrating, especially when you watch him. In the skeleton and shooting, he’s 100%. It’s just more of a contact thing.”
Even though he’s with a team that has championship aspirations, George said he’s not anxious to get on the court for practice before his body is ready. He has been through long rehab before, missing eight months after suffering a compound fracture in his right leg during a Team USA scrimmage in 2014.
George was patient then and he’ll be patient now, knowing that since that gruesome injury, he has been on four consecutive All-Star teams.
“I’ve dealt with injuries. I’ve dealt with rehab. I know what it takes and I know when that time is,” George said. “It’s no rush. It’s no rush. I do what I do to get back to the game, but I’m not going to rush it. I’ll be ready when the time comes.”