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Clippers’ Paul George ready to expand game to take on lead role

Clippers forward Paul George controls the ball against the Phoenix Suns.
Clippers forward Paul George controls the ball against the Phoenix Suns during Game 5 of the Western Conference finals on June 28.
(Matt York / Associated Press)

His role now with the Clippers will be that of the top dog, making Paul George the unquestioned leader of this group while fellow All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard recovers from surgery to repair a partially torn right ACL that will sideline the forward for an extended period this upcoming season.

This is not a new position for George, and it is a job he welcomes.

During his seven seasons playing for the Indiana Pacers, George developed into the No. 1 option.

George said Monday at the Clippers’ media day at the team’s practice facility, he’s ready to take on the challenge of being the man in Leonard’s absence.

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“Yeah, I’m looking forward to taking on all facets, whether it’s scoring, defending, playmaking. I’m looking forward to taking on the whole facet of the game,” George said. “I’m really going into this year as this being one of my most complete seasons as far as doing a little bit of everything.

“I think I proved it and showed it to myself during the playoffs in that run, that stretch against Phoenix, whether it was rebounding, pushing the tempo, playmaking, scoring the ball. That really just fed my appetite even more.”

Clippers star Kawhi Leonard said Monday he has no timeline for his recovery from surgery while indicating he hasn’t ruled out a return this season.

When Leonard was injured in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals against Utah, never to play again in the playoffs, George took the controls and helped the Clippers reach the conference finals, which was the first time they had gone that far in franchise history.

As more was demanded of George, he delivered for the Clippers. He averaged 26.9 points per game in 40.8 minutes per game, 9.6 rebounds and 5.4 assists.

His 41 points in the elimination Game 5 against the Suns was a playoff career high and pushed the Clippers to a Game 6.

“I just want to tackle and take on everything head-on and kind of just do everything on the floor,” George said.

George is entering his 11th season in the league and knows what will be expected of him.

He took on that role in Indiana, becoming a star, and that has made him ready for his new role with the Clippers.

The Los Angeles Clippers opened training camp with their annual media day. A recap from L.A. Times reporters Andrew Greif and Broderick Turner.

“I do think what you do take away from being the No. 1 option on a nightly basis is how I can control the game and impact the game and play the game, slow the game down how I want it to go,” he said. “So, that will just be my approach. How can I … how can this game be a Paul George game? All of that is just going to come from, how do I help my teammates? How do I make them better? How do I be a good teammate?

“So, all of that is just going to come into effect. But I think mostly it’s just how I can control the tempo and the pace of the game.”


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