The Clippers‘ playoff prospects would be a lot brighter with Paul George in the lineup, and his teammates are encouraged by his performance Thursday in his first practice since tearing a ligament in his right elbow, writes Mirjam Swanson of The Orange County Register. George wasn’t involved in much contact during the practice session, but Amir Coffey and Ivica Zubac both said he looked “great.”
George has been limited to 26 games this season, but his numbers have been typically outstanding at 24.7 points, 7.1 rebounds and 5.5 assists per night. The Clippers will start out in the play-in tournament, with a matchup looming against one of the Western Conference powers if they advance, so they’ll need George available to have a realistic shot.
“Just having that hope that he has a chance to come back, that gives them a lot of hope, especially the job this team has done this year, guys playing out of position, guys taking on bigger roles, you know?” coach Tyronn Lue said. “The job the team has done this year, it’s phenomenal. But we could use an extra little bump right now, especially in these dog days, going down the stretch of the season.”
There’s more on the Clippers:
- Former Clippers coach Doc Rivers can empathize with Lue, who is trying to survive without three of his best players, Swanson states in the same piece. After his Sixers blasted L.A. on Friday, Rivers said the toughest part of being short-handed is making players believe they can be successful without their stars. “They’re NBA players and you can win games, teams can win games during that period, and I think Ty’s done a great job with that,” Rivers said. “I mean, he’s really kept them afloat, so it’s been impressive.”
- Xavier Moon earned his new two-way contract by helping the Clippers when their roster was depleted due to health and safety protocols, Swanson adds in a separate story. Moon signed three 10-day hardship deals in December and January and made a strong impression on his teammates despite only playing six games. “His will, his want-to. How much he’s been about the team,” Reggie Jackson said when Moon’s last contract expired. “He’s come in, he’s gotten better every day, hasn’t complained, fears no one, doesn’t back down, so it’s been fun to watch him compete.”
- Jason Preston‘s rookie season was wiped out after foot surgery in October, but the Clippers believe the second-round pick has a bright future ahead, per Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times.