Paul George shines in Clippers debut, drops 33 in return from shoulder surgeries

For the first time since April, Paul George has finally made it back to the floor.

George made his debut with the Los Angeles Clippers in their 132-127 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans at the Smoothie King Center on Thursday night, and looked like he hasn’t missed a step. He dropped 33 points and nine rebounds, shooting 10-of-17 from the field in 24 minutes.

“He was sensational,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said, via Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times. “We played him about the minutes we liked … He was great. We ran some good stuff for him. What I like about him, just from one day of coaching him, he’s not only a catch-and-shoot guy, he’s a dribble guy, he’s also a post flair. He did all three phases of the game offensively. You could literally see defensively, he was mixed up in some coverages tonight. That’s just going to take time.”

George underwent a pair of minor shoulder surgeries this summer, repairing his right rotator cuff and left labrum. He missed the Clippers’ first 11 games this season while recovering from the surgeries. The six-time All-Star averaged career highs of 28 points, 8.2 rebounds and led the league with 2.2 steals per game last season with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

George finally returned to practice without restrictions on Saturday, and didn’t have much time to actually practice their offense himself ahead of Thursday’s matchup.

Rivers, though, said he ran their offensive schemes perfectly.

“When you don’t run live at all, you usually don’t run [plays] very well,” Rivers said, via Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times. “He ran plays like he’d been running it for weeks, months, and I was shocked by that. We ran a very difficult play for him, he scored six points out of it. It’s all timing. We saw he could do it, we kept running it. We were surprised. You have to give him credit. He must have watched a heck of a lot of film and all that to be that prepared.”

George, though, felt the opposite.

“I thought I was terrible,” George said, via ESPN. “I got a lot to get back to just from my performance on defense. Just for the flow of the game. I just haven’t had the time. Getting a feel for the speed. This was essentially my first preseason game. It’s a lot to take from this, and take it into the next one.”

His return to the lineup, however, wasn’t enough to push the Clippers past New Orleans.

The Pelicans mounted a 14-point lead while leading for most of the first half, and looked in complete control. While the Clippers slowly chipped away at that lead in the third quarter, and took a few brief leads early in the fourth, New Orleans put together a quick 10-1 run late in the final quarter to regain control and seal the five-point win.

Lou Williams was right behind George on Thursday night, finishing with 31 points and eight assists while shooting 11-of-20 from the field. Rodney McGruder added 20 points off the bench, and Montrezl Harrell finished with 18 points and seven rebounds.

Kawhi Leonard did not play Thursday night, sitting out the back end of the Clippers’ back-to-back games after dropping 26 points and 12 rebounds in their loss to the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night.

Jrue Holiday led New Orleans with 36 points and seven assists, shooting 13-of-24 from the field. Frank Jackson added 23 points off the bench, and Derrick Favors finished with a double-double, dropping 20 points with 20 rebounds.

Paul George drives against Frank Jackson of the New Orleans Pelicans during the first half of their game on Thursday night at the Smoothie King Center. (Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

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