On the same day Paul George joined Kawhi Leonard on the NBA’s All-Star game roster, he also joined his Clippers teammate in expressing reservations over the league’s decision to stage its midseason showcase March 7 amid a continuing pandemic.
The All-Star selection is the seventh of George’s 11-year career and it might be one of his most satisfying appearances after an offseason spent hearing “all the noise” about his performance following the Clippers’ second-round collapse in last year’s postseason.
Aided by a pair of now-healthy shoulders that allowed him to train during the offseason, something that wasn’t possible in 2019 before his first season with the team, George this season has averaged 24.6 points, 6.2 rebounds and a career-high 5.4 assists while shooting 51% overall and 48% on three-pointers.
“You find motivation through it,” George said after scoring 30 points in a 135-116 win Tuesday against Washington at Staples Center. “You dig deep and you’d be amazed what comes out of it. It was honestly just using everything as motivation fueling all of that toward this year. It’s a good milestone to start how my season’s going but definitely [not] where I want it to end, so I got a lot more work to do.”
He was one of seven Western Conference reserves chosen by the league’s 30 coaches. Leonard was previously chosen earlier this month as a Western Conference starter in a vote of fans, media and players. Following his selection, Leonard said he would participate in the March 7 All-Star game in Atlanta but made clear he believed the NBA was “putting money over health.”
“I’m not a fan of it,” George said. “And that’s just for personal reasons. I’m just not a fan of it with everything going on. … I get we have an amazing league, not discrediting that. But I don’t think it’s just, in the middle of a pandemic, something that needs to be had.”
George added that he had been fined this season for violating the league’s coronavirus health and safety protocols. A message seeking comment from the NBA was not immediately returned.
“I got fined for spending time with a teammate, or having a teammate over, and yet we‘re having this All-Star game,” said George, who declined to discuss the fine further. “So, again, I got personal reasons why I disagree with the game, but I’ve been selected and I will be there to play for the fans — or whatever fans that are there.”
The NBA has sold the All-Star game as a safe showcase for the league’s top players, who will arrive in Atlanta on March 6 along with guests via private transportation arranged by the NBA. Coaches, players, personnel and guests are required to stay at the same hotel in a “mini bubble” until the game the following day, after which everyone will depart. Health protocols designed for the game include mandatory coronavirus testing. The game will not include ticketed events for fans, and commissioner Adam Silver told ESPN that there will be “no parties” while in Atlanta.
Those precautions haven’t swayed superstars such as LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo, who are among the highest-profile players to voice their concerns. In urging fans to stay away, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms called it a “made-for-TV event only” in a statement last week.
This will be the first time the Clippers have had two representatives in the game since Blake Griffin and Chris Paul participated six years ago.
“[George] always been an All-Star, you know, in my eyes,” coach Tyronn Lue said. “He deserves it, and the kind of year he’s having this year, it just shows the hard work he put in over the summer to get back to this point.”