The last time Paul George and the Clippers were in discussions concerning a contract extension, three years ago, the All-Star guard earned a long-term deal and happily signed on the dotted line, saying it was part of his desire to one day retire a Clipper.
As George and the Clippers continue talks regarding a new extension, that desire to play out the final chapter of his career as a Clipper remains the same, he said Wednesday on the second day of training camp at the University of Hawaii.
“If it’s up to me, absolutely,” George said. “I’m back home, with a great organization, an organization that believes in winning and does everything they can to win. Why not? Why not retire here? It would be a dream if I can ride it out, hopefully compete for multiple championships while I’m a Clipper and be able to say I played at home and did something great at home. So yeah, that’s first on my agenda.”
The “if” in his response underscored the question so many around the NBA, from rival executives to agents, want to know: Entering the fifth season of the George and Kawhi Leonard partnership, whose title ambitions often have been derailed by injuries, what exactly is the Clippers’ appetite in offering either a long-term or maximum-value deal?
Leonard became extension-eligible in July and George in September, and both can sign for up to four years and around $220 million. Each holds a player option for the 2024-25 season.
Lawrence Frank, the team’s president of basketball operations, last week characterized talks with both players as “a process and we’ll just be candid with each other, but we’re hopeful that we can continue to build around those guys and they remain Clippers.”
Asked how active the team had been in contract discussions, George said “active, but both sides have to be on the same page and that’s just what we’re trying to figure it out.”
As The Times reported in July, executives from other teams questioned how close the team and stars ultimately would find themselves, expressing a wariness of offering long or maximum-value contracts based on age — George is 33, Leonard 32 — and injury history.
George and Leonard aren’t the only Clippers facing questions about the future.
Marcus Morris Sr. was frustrated after losing his starting power forward job, and nearly all of his minutes, late in the season. With an expiring contract and an uncertain role, Morris has been a prime candidate to be traded. In July his name surfaced as part of trade talks that nearly brought Boston guard Malcom Brogdon to the Clippers. Those talks collapsed, however, and Brogdon since has been traded to Portland in a deal that sent Jrue Holiday to Boston.
On Wednesday, Morris said hearing his name in trade discussions had not changed his relationship with the team.
“If it happens, it happens; if it don’t, it don’t,” Morris said. “Like I said, you know, I’m still a Clipper, I’m a Clipper until I’m not. I’m here to help the team in any capacity they need me in. It is what it is. I’m here and that was in the summer. I’m back, I’m ready to get started.”
Morris was asked whether he wanted to stay on the team.
“Yeah, I’m here,” Morris said. “I’m a professional, you know what I’m saying? I’m here, I’m doing my job. Like I said, whatever they need me to do, I’m going to do it.”
Among Clippers fans on social media, the play of Morris has become particularly divisive. In August, he appeared to voice frustrations in a post on Threads in which he referenced “bum ass Clipper fans.”
“I was being a little emotional at the time, you know what I’m saying, I was always in my feelings,” Morris said when asked about the comment. “Rightfully so, they can have their opinions. I didn’t play as well as I could have last year.
“You know, a lot of things went different, but rightfully so, man. You know, I just need to be better for the fan base, better for the fans. I think we all do as a whole, as a team, they deserve better. I think it is what it is. I said what I said, what I said. And the only thing I can do is just go out and play well for the ballclub and prove them wrong.”