Historically, the Los Angeles Clippers have been the Lakers’ little brother. This season, however, the star power is a bit more evenly spread between the two clubs. While the Lakers may have LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the Clippers have their own one-two punch in the form of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
The Clippers’ busy offseason
Despite living in the Lakers’ shadow, the Los Angeles Clippers have been moving in the right direction. The club has made the playoffs eight of the last nine seasons, but they haven’t found success in the postseason; they haven’t advanced since the first round since 2014-15.
During the offseason, the Clippers moved the change that. On July 10, the club sent Danilo Gallinari, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, five first-round picks, and the rights to swap two additional picks to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Paul George. Los Angeles also signed Kawhi Leonard, who helped the Toronto Raptors capture their first even NBA title, in free agency.
On paper, George and Leonard seemed like a perfect pair. Both players have an elite defensive skill set and the ability to score on the offensive end; despite lining up as small forwards, either player can handle the ball or drop into the post as required. In a league where versatile wings rule the roost, the Clippers have two of the best on their roster.
Kawhi Leonard and Paul George finally play together
While Clippers fans have had visions of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George playing together in their heads since the summer, they had to wait a while. Between the former player’s load management and the latter’s offseason surgery, the pair didn’t take the court together until Wednesday night.
Unsurprisingly, the Clippers’ two stars led them to victory over the visiting Boston Celtics. Leonard finished the night with 17 points, six rebounds, three assists, three steals, and two blocks, while George poured in 25 points and recorded eight assists. They also helped the Clippers’ defensive performance, limiting the Celtics to 39.4% shooting on the night.
While Los Angeles was sloppy at times, fun was the word of the night. “It was fun to see what this team can look like on the defensive end,” George said, “and offensively, it was fun to see how we can play off each other.
Paul George and Kawhi Leonard still need time to gel
While the Clippers’ potential was on full display last night, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard still have some work to do. The pair have only spent one shootaround and one game together, so growing pains are inevitable.
“It’s pretty much just finding each other’s spots and knowing the plays,” Leonard explained when asked what the Clippers need to work on going forward. “It’s still tough. We are both kind of on a minute restriction; hard to get into a flow. But just knowing plays and each other’s spots and the language on the defensive end [will help]. Repetition is what we need right now.”
George echoed his teammate’s sentiments. “The fact of the matter is we are going to have growing pains, and I think the most positive thing is we understood that. Nobody was pointing fingers or dropping their heads in huddles,” he added. “At no point was this team ever dysfunctional.”
Last night, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George carried their team to victory over a tough Boston Celtics squad. If that was them playing without chemistry, the rest of the league should be on notice.