The Phoenix Suns saw their three-game Western Conference road trip get off to a rough start on Monday, as they fell 138-111 to the L.A. Clippers in Los Angeles. The Suns failing badly to hold the Clippers under 110 points, one of the goals we recently spoke about in order to have a productive trip away from The Valley.
Clippers' superstar Paul George found himself in a nice groove in the game, going for a team high 25 points in only 31 minutes of action. His 3-pointer at the buzzer to close the first-quarter taken with the kind of swagger of a player who is already in postseason form. It also ensured George made history, as he officially entered the top 100 of the NBA's all-time scoring list as well.
Next to Kawhi Leonard and James Harden, the Clippers look to have figured out who they are quickly. With Harden happy to score less and facilitate more - while Leonard does a bit of everything quietly and without fuss - this team is becoming George's in their quest to win a championship.
Prior to the game, George was full of praise for Suns' head coach Frank Vogel, who he worked with when they were both with the Inidana Pacers.
George was speaking on his popular Podcast P with Paul George presented by Wave Sports + Entertainment, and had Minnesota Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns on to talk all things NBA. Over the course of the conversation, the conversation turned to coach Vogel, with George giving a glowing account of the time the two spent together in Indiana, saying;
"Ton of love for Frank, forever indebted to Frank Vogel and his family. For people that don’t know, when I first got drafted to Indiana. At that time, there wasn’t player development, that just wasn’t around in the league. The assistant coaches were working out the players, each assistant coach was assigned a couple (of) players. In today’s NBA… there (are) coaches that are strictly just developmental coaches that help the players rebound, get shots, and put them through drills…so back then Frank Vogel was my guy…"- Paul George
Hard as it may be to remember now with how his career has turned out, there was a time when a young George was not getting a lot of game time with the Pacers. That was Danny Granger's team - but as soon as Vogel was promoted to the role of interim head coach - was when George's career began to take off. It is clear he has not forgotten that.
"Jim O'Brien’s the head coach, Jim O’Brien gets fired. Now at this point, I’m not playing. I’m very small spurts, I might play five minutes in this game, garbage time, the next game I’m in a suit. That’s just how my career went up until they fired Jim O’Brien. Then immediately I start starting, Frank Vogel is the interim coach so he takes over for the rest of that season... Frank put me in the starting role. So for me it was like this is my dude, I’m gonna go through a wall for Frank. Whatever Frank need me to do, it’s done."- Paul George
George would go on to win the NBA's Most Improved Award in 2012-13 under coach Vogel, and to date is an eight-time All-Star as well. During this period of history in the league, the Pacers are most well known for being the most serious threat in the Eastern Conference to the LeBron James led Miami Heat of that era, which beat the Pacers en route to winning titles in 2012 and 2013.
That 2013 meeting was a seven-game epic in the Eastern Conference Finals, and nobody could have predicted that seven years later coach Vogel would be at the helm of a Los Angeles Lakers outfit led by James that would lift the Larry O'Brien trophy. George's career went in another direction, although he ultimately landed in L.A. himself with the Clippers.
At this moment in time his Clippers are in a better spot than Vogel's Suns out West - and although he would never say it publicly - Vogel would surely love to have George on this Suns roster as their third best player. Really though it is nice to see a player give props like this to a coach somewhat out of the blue, and on their own podcast no less, which shows the kind of bond the two have with one another.