Clippers' Paul George Says He Sees 'Big Difference' in His Mindset Now vs. NBA Bubble

Jenna CiccotelliCorrespondent IIMay 21, 2021

Los Angeles Clippers guard Paul George (13) brings the ball up court against the Charlotte Hornets during an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, May 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)
AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman

Compared to last year's playoffs, Paul George is a completely different headspace as he readies for the 2020-21 postseason. 

The Los Angeles Clippers guard, who told reporters in August that he struggled with his mental health in the NBA's bubble at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, said he is feeling better as he prepares to play the Dallas Mavericks in a first-round series for the second consecutive year.

"I think this year it's been easier because I have outlets," George said Thursday, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. "You know, I'm able to live a normal life. I can go home, I can see my family, I can spend time with my family, I can interact with other people outside of this team. And so that alone has just been a big difference to be back to some normalcy." 

Last summer, he said he was "in a dark place" while competing amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

"It was just a little bit of everything," George said in August. "I underestimated mental health, honestly. I had anxiety. A little bit of depression. Just being locked in here. I just wasn't there. I checked out." 

His struggle reflected itself on the court, where he hit just 10 of his 47 attempts and missed 21 of 25 three-point attempts across Games 2-4 of last season's first-round series against the Mavericks. He was reborn in Game 5, when he scored 35 points—more than he did in those three games combined. 

Getting his mental health in check led to his resurgence on the court. He said he spoke with the team psychiatrist as well as head coach Doc Rivers and relaxed by playing video games with teammate Montrezl Harrell, who dealt with emotional struggles in the bubble following the death of his grandmother in July. 

"It's a big difference from the bubble life to where I'm at now from a headspace standpoint," George said Thursday. 

Part of what has him ready to go this postseason is that performance in the bubble, where the Clippers won the series against Dallas but fell in the second round to the Denver Nuggets after leading 3-1. 

On a Clippers team that saw the departures of Rivers and Harrell, among others, while welcoming in additions including Rajon Rondo and Serge Ibaka, George averaged 23.3 points, 6.6 rebounds and 5.2 assists.

"[Last year's finish] was the motivation enough needed coming into this season," George said. "I needed to be better and up to this point, it's just being who I am and being who I been."