Playoff P
(Photo: Eric Harline)

Nicknames are a rite of passage, especially for star players in the NBA. They are an honorary title bestowed upon a person, rarely ever self-chosen. Before the 2018 NBA playoffs, a new alter-ego arose. Playoff P.

Playoff P is Paul George’s brainchild—a non-ironic reminder that he’s built differently. Frankly, there’s a massive difference between the two. In the regular season, fans watch Paul George, the NBA star. But in the playoffs, fans bear witness to Playoff P. It’s a not-so-humble reminder to expect slightly increased production and a disappointing series result.

George’s cockiness wasn’t well-received after a first round exit in 2018. It wasn’t well received after Damian Lillard waved goodbye in 2019, hitting a series-winning shot in 2019. After starting beef with Lillard in the bubble seeding games and consistently underperforming, a quirky nickname has turned Paul George into NBA Twitter’s public enemy number one. 

NBA Twitter is ruthless. They’ve compared George to the most average NBA players anyone could think of. They’ve pulled out memes ranging anywhere from “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” to the 1992 Dream Team. They even gave him the nickname of “Pandemic P.”

In games two and three of the Los Angeles Clippers-Dallas Mavericks series, George averaged 12.5 points from 7-33 shooting, including 3-18 from beyond the arc. Keep in mind; the Clippers traded Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari and five first-round picks to acquire him from the Oklahoma City Thunder last offseason. (For reference, Gilgeous-Alexander, a second-year pro, averaged 27 points from 18-35 shooting and 6-14 from three over the same sample size in his playoff series). 

Granted, yes—Paul George is a Clipper because it was the only way to lure Kawhi Leonard to Los Angeles. And thankfully for them, it worked out. Without the reigning NBA Finals MVP, they wouldn’t be the second seed in the Western Conference, let alone up 2-1 against the Mavericks. 

George needs to step up his game to silence his haters. For all he’s said, he simply can’t be outplayed by Trey Burke, Seth Curry and Tim Hardaway, Jr in a playoff series. Even former NBA players had enough with George’s antics.

“Playoff P can’t keep getting no passes,” former NBA star and current TNT basketball analyst Charles Barkley said Friday night. “You can’t be calling yourself Playoff P and lose all the time…They don’t call me Championship Chuck.”

Even going back to his days in Indiana, George has choked in the playoffs. Most memorably, losing possession and bricking a three in the final game of a 4-0 series loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2017.

Despite his recent woes, George is still confident in his game. “I’m no James Harden, that’s not my knack, to just shoot the ball and score the ball,” George said following Game 3. “I can, and I pride myself on being effective on both ends, but it’s gonna be nights like this where I can’t make shots and I can’t allow that to affect my game.”

But as long as George underperforms in the playoffs, the NBA Twitter slander assault will continue—and it will be justified.