Paul George struggled through the first four games of the Los Angeles Clippers’ playoff slate in the NBA’s Orlando Bubble. He broke out of that slump in a big way on Tuesday night, scoring 35 points and looking like the All-Star he is as the Clippers throttled the Dallas Mavericks and moved one game away from advancing to the conference semifinals.
After the game, George opened up about what has caused him to struggle. As he explained to Jared Greenberg of TNT, George found himself in a “bad” and “dark place” while he’s been in the Bubble, but believes he has made it to the other side of that.
“The bubble got the best of me. … I was just in a bad place. I found my way. I’m back.”
—Paul George on his struggles in the last few games pic.twitter.com/PmegD7zU1d
— ESPN (@espn) August 26, 2020
“Whatever it was, I mean, the Bubble got the best of me,” George said. “I was just in a dark place, I really wasn’t here, I checked out. These past couple games, it was difficult. But shoutout to people who stood behind me, that was in my corner. The positivity, my teammates, my family, friends, everybody, thanks to everybody that reached out to me. I was just in a bad place, and I found my way. I’m back. And I look forward to the rest of this run.”
There was plenty of talk after Game 4 that something was up with George, but it was unclear exactly what was going on. During his postgame media availability, he expanded on this, commenting on how he was struggling with his mental health.
Clippers’ Paul George said he talked to psychiatrist after slump before Game 5 breakthrough: “I underestimated mental health, honestly. I had anxiety and a little bit of depression. Being locked in here (in the bubble), I just wasn’t there. I checked out.” pic.twitter.com/rwOzAnxSKK
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) August 26, 2020
“I underestimated mental health, honestly,” George said. “I had anxiety, a little bit of depression. Just being locked in here, I just wasn’t there, I checked out. Games 2, 3, 4, I wasn’t there, I felt like I wasn’t there.”
George mentioned conversations he had with the team’s psychiatrist that played a role in his “energy” and “spirit” changing, while Clippers coach Doc Rivers explained that the team made it a point to rally around him to help get him out of his funk.
“PG and I sat in my room after the game,” Rivers said. “We just had a long talk, not all about basketball, really. Several players did it. Guys were knocking on his door.”
A few players have discussed how hard it can be staying in the Bubble, a heavily-controlled and regulated environment in which they’re away from their families and friends and there’s no escape from playing basketball. George deserves a ton of credit — as would anyone who is being this open about how mental health can impact anyone — for being this clear about what’s being going on, particularly because it can be brutally difficult to normalize having conversations about anxiety and depression.