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Paul George is a sign of hope as Clippers finish preseason with loss to Jazz

Utah Jazz forward Joe Ingles dribbles past Clippers guard Paul George.
Utah Jazz forward Joe Ingles dribbles past Clippers guard Paul George during the first half on Thursday at Staples Center.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

Driving into the paint Thursday night inside Staples Center, Clippers forward Paul George gathered his dribble in both hands and barreled into his defender, hoping to draw a foul.

That he did something similar multiple times during a 125-105 loss to Utah in the Clippers’ preseason finale is one indication George’s shoulders indeed feel as good as he has said during training camp, now nearly 18 months after both were repaired in surgery.

Such drives helped George earn nine free-throw attempts — nine more than any of the team’s other starters — against the Jazz en route to a team-high 16 points.

The Clippers must hope his aggression will translate to the regular season, as well, after George attempted just 4.5 free throws per game last season, a considerable dip from the 7.0 he averaged in 2018-19 with Oklahoma City while earning votes for NBA most valuable player. That campaign led to surgery on each shoulder, however, and George has said in recent weeks that he never felt completely comfortable with his shoulders last season but has gained confidence after being healthy enough to train during the recent offseason.

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Johnny Wilkes, who says he is best friends with Kawhi Leonard’s uncle ,says West promised him $2.5 million in exchange for helping the team sign Leonard in 2019.

Kawhi Leonard and Luke Kennard each added 13 points for the Clippers, who finished 0-3 in the preseason.

The Clippers played without forward Marcus Morris (right knee soreness) for a third consecutive game and center Serge Ibaka (sore lower back) and forward Patrick Patterson (hyperextension of the right elbow) also did not play.

Bojan Bogdanovic and Jordan Clarkson each had 20 points to lead Utah.

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