Paul George was treated to a celebratory postgame shower live on TNT on Tuesday, when three of his teammates circled around and emptied water bottles on the Clippers’ All-Star wing moments after he returned to action with a resounding 34 points in a rousing comeback win over the Utah Jazz.
Two of the Clippers doing the soaking: Terance Mann and Amir Coffey, guys who have been Clippers for three seasons, as long as George.
The third: Newcomer Xavier Moon, a well-traveled 27-year-old rookie who on Saturday signed a two-way deal with the team.
In a sense, George’s triumphant return to NBA action after more than three months away coincided with Moon’s.
“I feel like this is where I’m supposed to be, it definitely feels great to be back,” Moon said Monday, when his presence at Honey Training Center gave the Clippers a second healthy, proven professional point guard for the first time since they traded Eric Bledsoe.
Moon has impressed this season, both in 21 games this season with the Agua Caliente Clippers and in a trio of 10-day hardship deals with the parent club in late December and January, when they were hit hard by the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
In the G League, the 6-foot-2 Moon averaged 18.7 points on 45.3% shooting, including 38.5% from deep. He also averaged 7 assists and just 2.2 turnovers, to go with 4.5 rebounds and 1.3 steals.
And in the first six NBA games of his career, the three-time Canadian Elite Basketball League MVP averaged 5.5 points and 1.7 assists in 13.8 minutes per game.
COOL HIM OFF!!!💦 pic.twitter.com/SiU0UgMH6k
— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) March 30, 2022
Moon – whose roundabout route to the NBA took him from Alabama to France, England, Canada and Israel – also was among the team leaders in good vibes while he was around.
That included counseling Reggie Jackson, the Clippers’ the resident high-energy hype man said, to “just smile, have fun!” and, importantly, to appreciate the opportunity to play the game.
“He’s just always positive, optimistic,” Jackson said of Moon in January. “Not B.S. It’s nothing overdone, you can just tell he’s very optimistic, he’s very confident in what he does.”
Looking back, Moon said his initial taste of the NBA fed that belief.
“The month that I had here was probably the best month of basketball I’ve ever played, even though I only played in six games,” Moon said. “I learned a lot. … I took that and that was able to get me that time that I needed to elevate my game even more, even though I went back to the G, I didn’t look at it as a downgrade or anything like that. I looked at it as an opportunity to work harder and get back here.”
“And while I was here the first time, I learned a lot from these guys, just how to lead a team, just being a good teammate, all the type of stuff,” Moon added. “And I took it back with me to the G and then just worked my tail off to get back here, so it definitely feels good to be back, seeing everybody again.”
COFFEY’S NEW ROLE
Moon filled the Clippers’ vacated two-way spot after they signed Coffey to a standard deal worth $153,488 for the rest of the season, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks. The deal makes the 6-7 wing a restricted free agent in the offseason, when the team will retain his Bird rights, meaning they can sign him for as much as 25% of the salary cap for a maximum of five seasons.
It was an expected reward for a dependable contributor who has started 28 of 63 games this season, with 25 of those starts coming after George was ruled out on Christmas with a torn ligament in his right elbow.
When George returned to the lineup Tuesday, Coffey came off the bench for the first time in eight contests and, a game after playing more than 37 minutes in a loss to Philadelphia, logged just 28 seconds against the Jazz.
Coffey still made an instant impact when he checked in late in the third quarter, yanked a rebound away from Donovan Mitchell and quickly delivered an outlet pass to George, who scored and drew a foul in transition to build on the brewing comeback. With that sequence, the Clippers trimmed what had been a 25-point deficit to 12 entering the fourth quarter.
In his postgame comments, Coach Tyronn Lue made sure to credit Coffey for his alertness off the bench.
“A big play for me was that rebound that Amir got at the end of the quarter and was able to score at the end of the quarter,” Lue said. “That was huge.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism