What Paul George's postseason should tell you about his future with Clippers
Los Angeles Clippers forward Paul George. Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

What Paul George's postseason should tell you about his future with Clippers

There's a 1998 romantic comedy titled "Sliding Doors" starring Gwyneth Paltrow. The film alternates between two storylines, showing the paths the main character's life would take depending on just one decision. This postseason was the sliding doors moment for Los Angeles Clippers forward Paul George.

Much hoopla is being made about George's future, as the 34-year-old gets set to potentially hit free agency if no extension is reached with the Clippers. George wants a super-max contract, but per The Athletic's Shams Charania, the team doesn't see eye to eye with the forward.

The problem is, the timing is not great for George, who is coming off another postseason dud — this time it came against the Dallas Mavericks, who eliminated Los Angeles in the first round of the playoffs in six games.

"Sliding Doors" has a satisfactory 77% approval rating among viewers on Rotten Tomatoes. If you polled viewers on George's postseason showing, the rating might not be as sterling.

Despite his impending free agency, George averaged just 19.5 points this postseason, his second-lowest total for a series since 2013, his third year in the league and first season with an All-Star appearance. 

There are levels of clutchness in sports, much like Dante's levels of the underworld. The clutchness levels, though, are mostly good.

The top level is for the greatest ever to do it, those who get even better in the big moments. Think Michael Jordan and Mariano Rivera.

Then there are the great players who become all-time greats because of the postseason, such as Curt Schilling and Fernando Valenzuela. 

You also have your great players who continue to be great in the postseason, such as Kobe Bryant and Derek Jeter, and the athletes who are not great but are clutch in big moments. Looking at you, Eli Manning, Nick Foles and Luis Sojo.

But the bottom rung is reserved for athletes who are good until the big moments. It's the lowest level of clutch. That's where George sidles up to guys such as Alex Rodriguez, Greg Maddux and others.

In 2019, the Clippers traded for George, hoping the All-Star would be Kawhi Leonard's running mate for an organization that, at the time, had failed to exceed the second round of the playoffs. Through this season's playoffs, however, the Clippers have been rewarded with a 19-19 postseason record in games that George has played despite paying him $193.8 million.

This particular postseason became George's "sliding doors" moment because of the injury to Leonard that limited him to fewer than 60 minutes played in the series. It became the chance for George to fill that void after Leonard was lost for the rest of the series in Game 3. He had a chance to show why he is worth the $221.1 million super-max deal he wants.

Instead, with the series tied at two and the Clippers back in Los Angeles for Game 5, George shot 4-for-13 from the floor as the Clippers lost by 30 on their home court. George shot only 10-for-31 from the field in the final two games, scoring a combined 33 points with the team's season on the line. It was a performance more fitting for a Razzie than a max contract. 

This was reminiscent of George's 4-for-16 shooting performance in Game 7 of the 2020 second round against Denver. Since 2020, George has shot 34% in the final game of the playoff series (six games) and averaged 19 points.

Players play their way to big contracts every postseason. George had the chance, once again, but didn't step up when his team needed him the most. So if his performance wasn't max level, why should his contract be?

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