Clippers forward Paul George has entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols and will miss Friday’s win-or-go-home play-in game against the Pelicans, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Tim Bontemps (Twitter link).
George has tested positive for COVID-19, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). President of basketball operations Lawrence Frank said that George started not to feel well on Thursday and registered a positive test on Friday morning (Twitter link via Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN).
It’s a brutal blow for the Clippers, who appeared to be getting healthier at just the right time entering the postseason. George recently returned from an elbow injury that caused him to miss three months, while Norman Powell came back last week after being sidelined for nearly two months due to a broken bone in his foot.
The Clippers will still have Powell available for Friday’s play-in game, but star forwards George and Kawhi Leonard, who continues to make his way back from ACL surgery, will both be on the shelf, opening the door wider for the Pelicans to clinch the No. 8 seed.
Of course, head coach Tyronn Lue kept the Clippers competitive and in the playoff picture with both of his All-Star forwards unavailable for much of the season, so it’s certainly not a given that George’s absence will result in a home loss on Friday.
If L.A. pulls out a victory tonight, George should be able to return by Game 3 of a first-round series vs. the Suns. If not, Tuesday’s loss in Minnesota will end up being his final game of the 2021/22 season.
George’s positive COVID-19 test could also be bad news for the Trail Blazers. Portland will receive the Pelicans’ top-four protected 2022 first-round pick if it falls between No. 5 and No. 14, but that pick would land at No. 15 and would be sent to the Hornets if New Orleans wins tonight. In that scenario, the Blazers would instead receive Milwaukee’s 2025 first-round pick (top-four protected).