Paul George Talks Coaching, Notion Across the NBA, Discovering His Voice

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How a lot are you aware about Paul George? Like, actually know?

The query is a rhetorical one. Many individuals—the media, informal basketball followers, diehard Pacers/Thunder/Clippers followers—know of him as simply an NBA celebrity.

He’s an eight-time All-Star, gained Most Improved in 2013 and has made All-NBA, All-Defensive and All-Rookie Groups all through his 13 years within the League to this point. Lengthy earlier than that, he was identified for being the very best draft choose in Fresno State historical past when he was chosen within the first spherical again in 2010. Then, in 2014, he determined to modify issues up by altering his jersey quantity from No. 24 to No. 13, which additionally impressed a brand new nickname: PG-13. He purchased all his previous jerseys and donated them to his highschool. 

“The entire thing behind PG-13 is simply coming into my very own,” he informed Vigilant Sports activities again then. “I really feel like I’m at that stage the place I’m able to embrace every part that comes with being one of many younger stars on this League. Everybody is aware of PG-13 is said to tv, so the entire thing is having the ability to benefit from the present and being enjoyable to look at.”

In Indiana, PG turned heads. By his third season, he’d emerged because the Pacers’ go-to choice, and helped make them the Jap Convention Finals in back-to-back seasons from 2012-14. After seven years in Indy and a number of events the place he battled by way of damage—together with a compound fracture in his leg, which he suffered through the offseason in 2014 that brought on him to overlook a majority of the upcoming common season—he was traded to the OKC Thunder in 2017. He tried to redefine himself once more, this time as “Playoff P,” a nickname which he gave himself that season, proper earlier than the Thunder performed the Jazz within the first spherical. When requested about guarding then-rookie Donovan Mitchell, he clarified to ESPN that “Playoff P” is “a enjoyable man to look at. It’s an out-of-body individual the place I simply lock in and put myself in a special zone.” 

Then, in 2020, Sport 7 in opposition to the Nuggets occurred. Playoff P solely scored 10 factors on 25 p.c capturing and went scoreless within the fourth. The web ruthlessly determined “Pandemic P” was a extra becoming title for the star’s efficiency on the time. Since then, George has missed intensive time as a consequence of damage, together with the top of the 2022-23 common season due to a knee damage.

However that was then, and that is now. At 33 years previous, George has seen the highs and the lows of being knowledgeable athlete—the accidents, the losses and the wins. Whereas the opinions of others will help shift and form narratives, what issues most is how athletes view themselves. And that’s what we went out to California in late-August to seek out out: Who precisely is Paul George? 

“I feel I’m a reasonably humorous individual, however I’m additionally a really introverted individual,” George tells us. “I sort of preserve to myself and I feel that’s why folks don’t, or haven’t discovered a lot about me by way of my time by way of the NBA. However I’m truly a reasonably enjoyable, outgoing individual. Like to snort, like to joke. And, I imply, I’m unsure if that can shock many individuals however for the those who don’t actually know me, it may be stunning. At the very least that’s what it appears after we learn feedback [saying], He’s truly humorous. He’s truly a very good dude. So, I feel the extra I simply present [my] persona and present who I’m, [the] extra folks have simply gravitated towards it.”

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The person himself is sitting in a well-lit lounge on the Proactive Sports activities Efficiency, carrying his L.A. Clippers uniform. He was simply coaching and figuring out within the weight room moments prior—the lounge that we’re in proper now’s on the second ground and appears out onto the coaching facility and courtroom. Down under, we’ve received a complete photograph shoot arrange, which is the place we’ll shoot George for his third SLAM cowl. 

However first, interview time. Initially, PG’s demeanor is extra low-key because the cameras begin rolling. He’s not overly energetic or giving monotone solutions, with “actually” being one of many first phrases he makes use of when requested how his summer time has been going. It’s a very good signal that, hopefully, he’ll preserve it actual for the remainder of the dialog. In spite of everything, he’s executed numerous interviews and journal covers, together with with us, earlier than, and has been requested loads of questions on his profession, attending to that championship-level, enjoying alongside Kawhi Leonard…

Should you hear—actually, truly hear—to what he has to say, you’ll begin to perceive that there’s much more to Paul George. He’s introverted, sure, however he has additionally been discovering one other facet of himself. He’s inventive, and fairly introspective and trustworthy: whereas the subsequent technology of standouts—Brandon Miller, Kiyan Anthony—think about him their GOAT, his personal measurement of success comes down to 1 tangible factor: successful a championship.

When he talked about on his Twitch livestream lately that he totally intends to be on his “bully shit” this upcoming season, that wasn’t a risk. It was a promise.

Right here, Paul George elaborates extra on what we are able to count on from him this season, his strategy to his offseason coaching and the way he’s found his voice—and himself—on the courtroom, within the podcast studio and in every single place in between.


SLAM: How are you doing? How has the summer time been and what have you ever been as much as except for coaching?

PAUL GEORGE: Good. Actually, [it’s] summertime, being a father, it’s largely household time. When the season’s executed, children are out of faculty. [It’s a] nice alternative to sort of simply be at house with the household, be with my spouse, my children. However that’s about it. Other than that I’m coaching and, you realize, I’m taking my standard summer time journeys to Europe and trip. However exterior of that, [I’m] placing one foot ahead and preparing for the subsequent season.

SLAM: The place in Europe did you go to?

PG: I used to be out in Serbia, the place my spouse is from. I used to be in Montenegro and Greece.

SLAM: What’s it wish to be house and in a position to totally give attention to the fam? Are you able to describe the way you go about transitioning from the season into summer time?

PG: It’s nice having the children house full-time, protecting them energetic [and] having the ability to take them to their camps, take them to their practices, their hobbies. It’s simply nice to be a bit bit extra hands-on and you actually discover what their pursuits are when you’re with them for longer intervals. 

So it’s been enjoyable—it’s been enjoyable because the season has been executed to rekindle that. You get so riled up and caught up with how the season goes that you just are likely to lose out on stuff, simply being on the highway and touring a lot. In order that’s actually the good half about having these summers.

SLAM: You’ve talked about they’re fairly inventive—had been you a similar approach as a child  rising up?

PG: Yeah, I used to be. I feel that’s why the bond between my oldest and myself is so robust, as a result of I used to be the identical approach. My creativeness was very robust. I can draw, create, coloration—you identify it. If I can consider it, I might draw it. So I used to be fairly good. I wasn’t the best at drawing, not a portraits individual, however I might draw fairly good as a child. I see quite a lot of me [in] her.

SLAM: That’s hearth. When it comes to your offseason exercises and coaching, did you begin stepping into it instantly after the season ended? 

PG: I took, like, two weeks off simply because I used to be rehabbing. When the season ended, [I had] a nasty leg damage. And when the season was over, there was no level clearly for me to be in the most effective form potential. So I took two weeks off to sort of get away from basketball, get away from the ability, get away from coaching. I assumed that simply helped me strategy once I went again to coaching quite a bit higher. It helped my psychological, it helped my focus and that’s in regards to the norm for me at this level in my profession—take about two weeks away, go journey, simply get out, get away after which I’ll come again and go hit it onerous once more.

SLAM: Has that been your strategy prior to now? To take time away? 

PG: Yeah, I might say most likely the final couple years. Earlier than then I used to, when the season was executed, I [would] be proper again within the fitness center the subsequent day. However now as I’ve gotten older, I sort of take pleasure in splitting the 2—being in season-mode after which being in offseason-mode. The youthful me didn’t have a household or children, so the older me sort of is aware of to separate that, take pleasure in household time and get after it once I’m prepared.

SLAM: Wanting again, how would you describe your youthful self, particularly while you first got here into the League.

PG: My youthful self was simply hungry. He was passionate, he had simply the warrior mentality. And fearless. I nonetheless have a few of these qualities, nevertheless it’s positively stronger as a youngin’ coming into the League. Now I might say my older self is a bit bit extra centered, understanding what I need and methods to strategy it, methods to get there. Now it’s simply [about] attempting to remain wholesome. That’s the most important key. 

However yeah, that’s the separation between myself—the place I’m at now and the youthful me. I simply had that zeal to need to be the most effective and destroy any and every part in entrance of me.

SLAM: What have you ever been specializing in particularly this offseason in your coaching? What are your objectives going into subsequent season?

PG: Simply specializing in the mentality. For me, it’s simply the mentality. I work extraordinarily onerous on bettering and getting higher, however for me, it’s simply the mentality—going again to having that 22, 23-year-old mentality at 33 of, each time I’m on the ground, I’m there to dominate and simply be the most effective participant on the ground always. In order that’s the mentality I’m going into it [with]. That’s how I’m approaching this summer time. On the finish of the day, I like the place I’ll end as a result of if I’ve that mentality, I do know I’m giving it every part I’ve, and I can stay with these outcomes.

SLAM: Is that what you meant while you stated on that Twitch livestream that you just’re going to be in your “bully shit” this season?

PG: 100%. 100%. That’s precisely what I meant. I gotta maintain myself accountable to that… Each evening I’m on the ground, I’m there to dominate. Whether or not it’s [being] extra bodily, or going proper at whoever I gotta go at, you’re gonna really feel me. I’m having that strategy of each time I’m on the ground, I’m there to dominate and destroy you.

SLAM: Whenever you stated that in your livestream, what pushed you to that time? Did you are feeling prefer it was one thing that wanted to be stated? Was that one thing that was going by way of your head already?

PG: Yeah, I imply, it was simply quite a lot of pointless discuss going across the League of, you realize, guys feeling themselves and directing feedback towards me that haven’t executed something as effectively. You recognize, that is the final couple years of my profession, so it’s all about legacy for me as effectively. And that’s simply my strategy—I received to complete robust and return to loving the sport and loving to dominate. And once more, that’s simply how I received to strategy it. [If] I come up brief, that’s on me. However that’s how I gotta strategy it.

SLAM: You used the phrases “return to loving the sport and loving to dominate.” Was there a time while you didn’t essentially really feel that approach?

PG: Simply by way of accidents, you doubt your self. At instances, you doubt what you’re in a position to do. However at this level—I had a fluke damage to finish the remainder of my season final 12 months—however up till that time, I used to be beginning to get stronger, I used to be beginning to really feel higher, issues that I used to be having midseason had been beginning to go away. And that was the most effective I used to be feeling. And so, I used to be coming into my stride, able to get again into that. However for a stretch, I didn’t really feel [like] myself simply because accidents and stuff was aching and popping up. However I really feel like I’ve been beginning to tackle that each summer time, little by little, to the place I’m in a fantastic place proper now.

SLAM: What does Paul George being on his “bully shit” seem like?

PG: Actually [laughs]…I can’t let you know what that appears like. I’ve been a reasonably constant scorer, been a high-level participant for a few years. However for me, it’s simply attending to a stage of consistency. And, once more, not backing down and destroying no matter I’ve to [to] get to the place I have to get to. So I feel it’ll be noticeable by the way in which I play this 12 months.

SLAM: Do you are feeling like there was a time or I suppose a defining second throughout your profession the place you actually felt such as you had been actually in your “bully shit”? 

PG: I had that strategy of guarding everybody powerful, of attempting to be the primary choice and rating on the most effective participant each evening whereas shutting the most effective participant down each evening. You recognize, I simply had a imply mentality once I was youthful. And that was simply how I approached the sport. I feel I fell away a bit bit from that mentality. And so once more, all of it’s simply attempting to be again, centered [and] to the place I used to be once I got here into this League.

SLAM: Whenever you had been referring to guys within the League, or usually, having issues to say about you, what was working by way of your head? 

PG: I imply, all people has their proper to say what they need to say. Everybody at this cut-off date has an opinion. That doesn’t trouble me, however the way in which you go about it, and the way in which you strategy it, I’m gonna need to have one thing to say about the way in which issues are dealt with sooner or later. And that’s simply the place it’s gotten, so, you realize, it’s nearly having—I don’t go off of what I’ve executed, who I’ve been within the League. To me, I view it as: if I’ve gained or if I haven’t gained. And I haven’t gained. Folks inform me on a regular basis, Don’t doubt your self, don’t this, don’t that. I don’t. I do know what I’ve completed. I do know what I’ve executed on this League. I do know whose ass I’ve busted on this League, who I’ve put what numbers on on this League. That don’t imply nothing if I haven’t gained a championship. Yeah, it’d be a fantastic résumé when it’s all stated and executed. That’s cool. However for me, I measure myself within the success I’ve had within the League—if I get a championship, that’s what it’s all about. So, yeah, the common stats are cool and all, however I received an even bigger objective of successful [and] establishing myself as a champion.  

SLAM: Have you ever at all times had that customary of success? 

PG: Yeah, I imply, coming into the League, early on, the primary couple of years [it was about] establishing myself and simply getting higher and eager to be an All-Star, eager to be on that celebrity stage, wanting to hold a crew and eager to be the most effective defender on the ground. That was sort of [my] particular person objectives. However when you make it to that time, take it a step additional, now that has to imply one thing. Being the most effective participant, being the most effective defender, being on a very good crew—like that every one has to begin to equate to one thing. Now I’m at some extent the place yearly I’m coaching, and that’s the objective—to get a championship. And so if I come up brief, like, nothing else issues that 12 months. At this level, I failed the 12 months, I failed the season, if I didn’t win a championship. 

SLAM: Let’s get into your podcast. To begin, do you are feeling like this is without doubt one of the first instances you’ve actually been outspoken by way of sharing your individual opinion, speaking to different athletes and analysts? 

PG: Yeah, I feel so. As a result of, you realize, for the longest [time], as a younger man, you need to say the best stuff, you need to shield the group, you need to shield teammates, you need to shield your self, picture, model, all of that great things, proper? However you lose sight of like, Am I actually answering this the way in which I need to reply it? Am I actually getting off the thought or the concept I actually need to say? And typically after interviews, I’m like, you realize, Fuck, I ought to have stated what I actually wished to say. Or, I ought to have informed them what actually occurred or the way it actually went. Or, how I actually felt.  Now, with my podcast, I can try this. And I feel that’s simply the sweetness in it. 

SLAM: On that observe, what’s it like doing the interviewing after having been interviewed so many instances? Do you are feeling like you’ve got a special perspective of what goes into it? 

PG: Yeah, what I discovered doing it’s [that it’s] very therapeutic, as a result of quite a lot of tales that I’ve informed, or quite a lot of tales that we’ve talked about, had been issues I held on to and haven’t actually [gotten] that out. Whether or not it’s been good moments, unhealthy moments, enjoyable instances, unhealthy instances, it’s simply been therapeutic to precise sure tales. For instance, the dialog with DeMar [DeRozan] that we had about enjoying one another in highschool, I’ve at all times felt how I felt main as much as that second enjoying him in highschool, nevertheless it was nice to listen to how he felt main as much as that second enjoying me in highschool. So conversations like that had been nice to sort of mirror again on and share that second and share that story with any individual that I’m fairly good pals with, however we’ve by no means talked about that. And so it was simply nice to return [down] reminiscence lane and choose up on issues that we’ve been by way of and experiences. As a result of in any other case, you maintain on to sure stuff and [are] weirded out by methods to share or mirror on some issues.

SLAM: What’s the most important factor you’ve discovered about your self, now that you just’ve gotten into podcasting? 

PG: That I’m not simply good at basketball. [laughs]. Nah, I imply, I knew no matter I put my time into I might be profitable in. That’s what sort of individual I’m: if I lock in on one thing, I work extraordinarily onerous to be good at it. And being within the podcast house is one other notch to reassure that. It’s simply been enjoyable. It’s actually been enjoyable. I by no means in 1,000,000 years would have thought that I might be interviewing different gamers, speaking about tales, being in entrance of a digital camera as a lot as I’m, particularly at this level in my profession. So, you realize, it’s simply been a fantastic curler coaster. And I’m simply having fun with the trip at this level.

SLAM: Did you at all times really feel that approach—that you just’re actually solely seen as Paul George the basketball participant?

PG: Not essentially, however I do suppose folks didn’t know a lot about me. I felt I used to be—everybody thought a sure approach, based mostly off of moments I’ve had in basketball, moments on the courtroom, off the courtroom. And that’s the one factor that they’ll pinpoint on me. However truly watching me in a podcast setting, getting to speak, attending to snort, making jokes. I feel folks see me in a special mild. And that’s what I respect, that they’ll separate [it, like], Oh he’s completely totally different. I assumed he was approach totally different. I had this angle of him, [but] he’s truly a cool dude. He’s truly humorous. He’s truly this, that. Which I’m. I’m simply as regular as anyone else. 

There’s positively an appreciation there for followers for permitting [themselves] to re-introduce themselves to who Paul George is.


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Deyscha “Sway” Smith is an Affiliate Editor at SLAM. Observe her on Instagram/X, @deyschasmith and Tik Tok @deyscha.

Portraits by Atiba Jefferson. Motion images by way of Getty Pictures.





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