Sports

PG: ‘Big difference’ in mindset now vs. in bubble

All-Star guard Paul George says he is in a much better headspace as he enters his second postseason with the LA Clippers.

Last year, George said that he had bouts of depression while being in the bubble and away from family and friends when the NBA resumed its season in isolation in Orlando, Florida.

As George prepares to face the Dallas Mavericks for the second year in a row in the first round, he says his mental health is better than it was entering the playoffs last year.

“Well I think this year it’s been easier because I have outlets,” George said. “You know, I’m able to live a normal life. I can go home, I can see my family, I can spend time with my family, I can interact with other people outside of this team. And so that alone has just been a big difference to be back to some normalcy.

“It’s a big difference from the bubble life to where I’m at now from a headspace standpoint.”

George went through a shooting slump in the first round last season when he made 34.6% from the field and only 27% from behind the arc against Dallas. In Games 2, 3 and 4, George shot 10-for-47 combined, including 4-for-25 from 3-point range. He broke out with 35 points in Game 5 before helping the Clippers win the series in six games.

During the second round when the Clippers blew a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets, George shot 43.1% from the field and 39.4% from 3, but went 4-for-16 and just 2-for-11 from behind the arc in a Game 7 loss to the Nuggets.

George said the Clippers’ collapse and his performance in the bubble motivated him entering this season to return to the form that made him an MVP candidate when he played for Oklahoma City in 2018-19.

The Clippers have said several times that they are a different team entering this postseason than they were a season ago. Head coach Doc Rivers is gone, as are Montrezl Harrell, Lou Williams and JaMychal Green. The Clippers have Ty Lue and a new coaching staff, along with key veteran additions such as Rajon Rondo, Serge Ibaka and Nicolas Batum.

“Whole different team, different coaching staff,” Clippers forward Marcus Morris said. “Energy’s a lot better. The camaraderie’s a lot better. Everybody wants to be here. Everybody is playing their role the right way and we all have one goal and we are all committed to it.”

George averaged 23.3 points, 6.6 rebounds, 5.2 assists and shot 46.7% from the field and 41.1% from 3-point range in a bounce-back season. He dealt with a toe injury since early February, but rested in the final two games of the season.

But mentally, George says he feels much better entering this postseason.

“[Last year’s finish] was the motivation enough needed coming into this season,” George said. “I needed to be better and up to this point, it’s just being who I am and being who I been.”

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