Paul George

Paul George to miss Clippers-Warriors Chase Center opener after surgeries

Paul George to miss Clippers-Warriors Chase Center opener after surgeries

When Chase Center opens its doors for the Warriors' first regular-season game there Oct. 24, one of the NBA's biggest stars will be on the shelf.

Los Angeles Clippers forward Paul George, who underwent two shoulder surgeries during the offseason, told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne at Clippers Media Day that he will be out until “November-ish,” thus putting him out of the marquee opening-week game against Golden State.

The Clippers are considered the favorites to win the 2019-20 NBA championship after a wild offseason in which they acquired George and reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard.

Expectations are sky high for coach Doc Rivers’ squad, who retain quality role players Lou Williams, Patrick Beverley and Montrezl Harrell, all of whom helped the No. 8-seeded Clips push the No. 1-seeded Warriors to six games in the first round of the 2019 NBA playoffs.

The Warriors, after being prohibitive title favorites for years, now are back among playoff hopefuls after Kevin Durant left Golden State for Brooklyn and Klay Thompson will miss most of the season after tearing his ACL in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. While many pundits still expect the Warriors to still make the playoffs -- they have Steph Curry, Draymond Green and newly acquired D’Angelo Russell, after all --  they will need every win they can get. With George sidelined for the Warriors’ home opener, that game becomes significantly more winnable for Golden State.

[RELATED: KD now has team of his own in Nets after leaving Warriors]

The Warriors and Clippers don’t square off again until Jan. 10, at which point George is expected to be fully healthy.

Why NBA's new tampering proposal won't stop players from recruiting

Why NBA's new tampering proposal won't stop players from recruiting

The NBA is a players' league. 

For nearly a decade, the league at large has been trying to curtail that notion. In the latest effort, the NBA has proposed new rules, including a fine of $10 million for teams caught tampering with potential free agents, according to a league memo obtained by ESPN. 

The proposal comes two months after $1.4 billion in contract terms were agreed to 90 minutes into free agency, all but proving teams and players had agreements prior to the June 30 moratorium period. Such players included Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, who were reported to have agreed to terms with the Brooklyn Nets hours before free agency period began. 

Nine years ago, LeBron James sat in the Boys and Girls Club in Greenwich, Conn. and -- with the sports world in the palm of his hand -- announced his intention to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat, marking the biggest shift to player empowerment since Curt Flood fought for MLB free agency in the 1970s. The move opened the door for players to determine their own futures on a level not seen, to the point that even the league's newest overtures won't help. 

The NBA's latest attempt to stifle player movement is wide-ranging. According to the memo obtained by ESPN, the proposal includes prohibiting players from influencing other players to request trades and random audits on teams to "assess compliance." Additionally, a requirement would be put in place that requires teams to report any instance of a player or representative asking for extra benefits within 24 hours. 

The NBA's newest proposal is in response largely to the recent open recruiting of free agents from former Lakers executive Magic Johnson. In 2017, Johnson alluded to his recruitment of upcoming free agent Paul George during an appearance on "Jimmy Kimmel Live." Paul, then a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder, was considering the Lakers in free agency. Though rules forbid Magic to openly recruit George, he did so anyway. 

“We going to say hi because we know each other, you just can’t say, ‘Hey, I want you to come to the Lakers,’" Johnson said. "Even though I’ll be wink-winking like, ‘You know what that means, right?’”

Johnson was fined a league-record $500,000 and George signed with the Thunder. Though the league's proposal is aimed at curtailing further actions like Johnson's, it does little to help with player-on-player recruitment. Thirteen years ago -- during the 2006 World Championships -- Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, each a member of a different team, openly pondered the idea of playing together. Each signed short-term deals with their teams to become free agents in 2010, subsequently signing with the Heat in free agency. 

Will the new rules actually prohibit players from doing it again? Probably not. 

No rules are going to stop a player's will under the current landscape. Take Kevin Durant's free agency this summer. Before signing, Durant hadn't met with any executive nor toured any of the Brooklyn Nets facilities, but said he wanted to sign regardless. 

[RELATED: Durant still searching for what slipped from time with Warriors]

The biggest proposal would be for teams to self-report any agent asking for extra benefits. Not sure that could work, considering teams would run the risk of turning off top-flight talent by outing a player's inner circle. 

The NBA is now a player's league, thanks to LeBron James, and even with the current set of rules in place, it doesn't seem like that power struggle will be changing anytime soon. 

Warriors vs. the West: How Dubs match up against Clippers in 2019-20

Warriors vs. the West: How Dubs match up against Clippers in 2019-20

For the first time in five seasons, the Warriors find themselves in new territory entering the 2019-20 season. With Kevin Durant gone to the Brooklyn Nets, Klay Thompson rehabbing his surgically repaired left ACL and eight new players on the roster, the Warriors are not the preseason NBA title favorites. 

As the Warriors reconcile a new reality, the rest of the Western Conference has retooled with superstar talent. Over the next seven days, NBC Sports Bay Area will examine teams that are expected to challenge Golden State's Western Conference throne.

Friday's edition: The LA Clippers.

Summer transactions 

Six days into free agency, the Clippers signed All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard. Minutes later, they sent the Oklahoma Thunder four unprotected first-round picks along with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in exchange for forward Paul George, marking the most historic summer in franchise history. 

To complement George and Leonard's talents, the Clippers filled out the roster by re-signing defensive ace Patrick Beverley and big man Ivica Zubac. LA rounded out the roster with Wilson Chandler, Patrick Patterson and veteran Garrett Temple.  

Strengths 

With Beverley, Leonard and George, the Clippers have arguably the best defensive core in the league. Last season, LA ranked 19th in the league in defensive rating, giving up more than 114 points per game, making the addition of George and Leonard all the more imperative. 

Supplementing LA's star power is the league's best bench unit. Last season, the Clippers' bench averaged 53.4 points per game. Two-time reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams -- who averaged 20.0 points in 26 minutes per game -- helped lead LA's starless team to 48 wins and a six-game first-round series against the Warriors. 

Simply put, the Clippers might be the most complete team in the league. 

Weaknesses

Despite their star power, the Clippers' top two players are entering the 2019-20 season with a sketchy recent injury history. Last season, Leonard missed 22 games due to load management and looked to be hobbled throughout the postseason. Meanwhile, George -- who had offseason shoulder surgery -- is expected to be out for the start of the season. 

The Clippers are clear front-runners to represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals. However, injuries could cripple that goal. 

How the Warriors stack up

The Clippers -- like the Lakers --  might be the biggest hurdle Golden State faces in its quest for a sixth straight Finals appearance. 

[RELATED: Draymond knows 'no one' will want to see Dubs in playoffs]

Since losing to LA in the 2014 playoffs, the Warriors have had success against their Southern California rival, eliminating them in last year's postseason. 

However, even with the departures of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, the Clippers were building a team to contend with the Warriors. Now, with Leonard and George, they have a team that can beat the reigning Western Conference champs.