Just a few months after a nightmare end to the season, Paul George seems to be enjoying himself again.
The Los Angeles Clippers star had his latest strong performance on Wednesday, posting 36 points, six assists, four rebounds and zero turnovers in a 121-99 Clippers win. George was lights out from deep, shooting 8-of-9 past the 3-point line.
The big night came hours after a fresh wave of criticism hit a player that has been regularly criticized and mocked following his struggles in the NBA bubble. This time, it came from a book co-written by Los Angeles Lakers veteran Jared Dudley.
In “Inside the NBA Bubble,” Dudley took aim at George for being “disrespectful” for putting himself at the level of LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
"We hear some of those guys talking about how they're the team to beat in L.A.," Dudley and co-author Carvell Wallace wrote in their 42-page book "Inside the NBA Bubble: A Championship Season under Quarantine," released this week. "It's fine if Kawhi [Leonard] says stuff like that. He's defending a championship. We don't trip if someone like Patrick Beverley is talking trash; that's how he feeds his family. We get it. We respect the hustle.
"But we think it's disrespectful for Paul George, who hasn't won, to put himself on the level of [LeBron James] and [Anthony Davis]. This motivates us."
Dudley’s comments are a reference to what George said in response to a reporter asking if he believed he and Kawhi Leonard are the top duo of players in the league. This is how George answered:
“I think so. When you look at two guys that play on both ends, two guys that can go and get a basket, two guys that can stop you from getting a basket, elite on both ends, I don't see how you can beat that.”
As it turns out, you can beat that when one of those guys shoots 39.8 percent from the field during the playoffs, which George did last season. Of course, that also came in a season in which George went through two shoulder surgeries and spoke of dealing with anxiety and depression in the bubble.
It’s also probably worth noting that, at the time, George was coming off a season in which he finished third in NBA MVP voting, scored more points per game than the then-ringless Davis, led the league in steals and made more 3-pointers than any player in NBA history not named Stephen Curry and James Harden. It wasn’t too crazy for him to be confident then.
Either way, George just seemed to enjoy the extra motivation. He thanked Dudley for the shout-out after Wednesday’s game:
“God bless him. God bless you, Jared Dudley. I don’t know what it is. Dudes love throwing my name in stuff, but god bless you, Jared.”
Paul George when asked about Jared Dudley’s comments about him. #Clippers pic.twitter.com/wkCrLvnxGq
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) February 4, 2021
Through Wednesday, George is now averaging 24.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game on a career-high 47.8 percent from 3-point range. The Clippers are 16-3 in games in which George has logged more than 25 minutes, and 1-3 in other games.
The narrative around George isn’t going to change without a deep run in the playoffs, but, for now, he’s doing all he can do to back up his boast a year later than planned.
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