Paul George will be center of attention during Clippers debut vs. Pelicans
NBA 

After staying sidelined for the past seven months from offseason surgery on his shoulders, Paul George plans to make his Los Angeles Clippers debut in Thursday’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans.

"The wait is over," George wrote on his Instagram page. "Line it up."

George’s debut will coincide with Kawhi Leonard sitting out for the third time this season as part of the Clippers’ efforts to limit his workload on back-to-backs. Leonard, who is listed as out for "left knee injury management" also missed nationally televised games this season in Utah (Oct. 30) and against Milwaukee (Nov. 6). The Clippers are also sitting point guard Patrick Beverley because of a sore left calf.

That puts plenty of attention on George, whom the Clippers acquired in an offseason trade from Oklahoma City for Shai-Gilgeous Alexander, Danilo Gallinari and five first-round picks (2021, 2022, 2023, 2024, 2026). The Clippers willingly mortgaged part of their long-term future for two reasons. Leonard joined the Clippers partly on the condition that they acquire George. The Clippers also are enamored with George's positional versatility as a scorer and defender.

They could not enjoy George’s presence right away, though. He had spent most of training camp confined to non-contact drills. The Clippers had cleared him only last week to complete any "live action" that included contact drills and scrimmaging. For the past week, the Clippers have remained patient to see how George’s body would respond following his increased workload.

The Clippers believe that he will fit into the roster right away because of his basketball IQ and selfless nature. They anticipate some early hiccups, though, because of his conditioning. Therefore, the Clippers are initially expected to play George below his career average in minutes (36.9).

George, who grew up in Palmdale just outside of Los Angeles, will make his Clippers debut at home on Saturday against the Atlanta Hawks. Leonard is expected to play together for the first time with his new All-Star teammate then. After that, George will face Oklahoma City on Monday at Staples Center, nearly five months after requesting the Thunder trade him.

The Clippers have gone 7-4 to open the season without George, though two of those losses coincided with Leonard’s absence. Once George and Leonard start together Saturday, Clippers coach Doc Rivers plans to stagger the rest of his starting lineup around them based on matchups.

Follow USA TODAY NBA writer Mark Medina on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. 

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