Paul George

Clippers Notes: Leonard, George, Covington, Batum, Hartenstein, Outlook

The Clippers were a much more optimistic bunch than most teams after getting eliminated from playoff contention, Jim Alexander of the Orange County Register writes. That’s due to the return of perennial All-Star Kawhi Leonard from his knee injury, plus the expectation that Paul George will have better injury luck next season.

In addition to being out for most of the season due to an elbow injury, George missed Friday’s play-in tournament loss to New Orleans after testing positive for COVID-19.

We get our main guys back. I mean, we can be dangerous,” coach Tyronn Lue said. “I think when you get Kawhi and PG back healthy, Norm (Powell for) a full season … this team can be pretty special. But it’s all about health. Our young guys (Terance Mann, Amir Coffey, (Luke) Kennard, Ivica Zubac), all those guys have (had) a chance to develop and play meaningful games. They played big for us. Our veteran guys, we already talked about what Marcus (Morris), Nico (Batum), Reggie (Jackson) have brought to this team. We got to get back, get back to the drawing board. But I’m very excited for this group, the guys coming back.”

We have more on the Clippers:

  • Robert Covington will be an unrestricted free agent this summer but the prospect of playing with Leonard and George is enticing to him, Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times tweets“The way that we played tonight when we went small, imagine PG and Kawhi in that lineup,’ he said. “That’s a lot of versatility … Once them guys come back next year, if I’m here, I’m really looking forward to that.”
  • By trading for Covington, the Clippers also acquired his Bird rights, which will allow them to exceed the salary cap and luxury tux to retain him, ESPN’s Bobby Marks notes in his guide to the team’s offseason. They don’t have a first-rounder due to the George trade but they will have two trade exceptions of $9.7MM and $8.3MM, plus the taxpayer mid-level exception of $6.3MM, to make roster upgrades.
  • Another potential decision is whether to re-sign Batum if he declines his $3.3MM option, Yossi Gozlan of Hoops Hype notes in his offseason preview. They hold Non-Bird rights on another unrestricted free agent, Isaiah Hartenstein. Gozlan also breaks down the remaining salary due to each player on the roster.
  • After blowing two chances to make the playoffs, the Clippers are in typical wait-til-next-year mode, Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times opines. Despite the rosy outlook, the Clippers can’t guarantee that Leonard will regain his pre-injury form, that the chemistry will be the same or that someone else won’t get hurt.

Paul George Out Friday Due To Positive COVID-19 Test

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).

L.A. Notes: Lakers’ Roster, Howard, Rondo, George, Powell

The Lakers‘ hopes of reaching the play-in tournament were extinguished this week, but these final games are still important for a few players, writes Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register. The team’s roster figures to look much different next season, and young players such as Mason Jones, who finished third in the G League MVP race, see the late-season contests as a chance to shape their future.

“At the end of the day, I want to be a good player in the league,” he said. “From this day forward, you’ve got to continue to take steps. I was with South Bay earlier and I took that as the right mindset. And I’ll continue to take steps. From here, I want to continue to take the steps and learn from them because possibly, they could be my teammates next year.”

Beyond LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook, the Lakers have only a few players under contract for next season, Goon notes. Talen Horton-Tucker is signed for two more years and Kendrick Nunn for one more, and the team has 2022/23 options on Austin Reaves and Stanley Johnson. That may create an opportunity for Wenyen Gabriel, whose two-way contract was converted to a standard deal on Friday.

“Obviously we didn’t get a lot of wins this month and we obviously wish we could have won more,” Gabriel said. “But I played with a lot of energy, and I feel I showed some things – some tools that the front office thinks can help the next following season. So it’s just them believing in my potential.”

There’s more NBA news from Los Angeles:

  • Michigan coach Juwan Howard has been mentioned as a possibility to replace Frank Vogel as head coach of the Lakers, tweets Steve Bulpett of Heavy, who adds that if that happens Rajon Rondo could join him as an assistant. Rondo, 36, is currently playing for the Cavaliers.
  • There appears to be no concern about Paul George‘s elbow as the Clippers head toward the play-in tournament, according to Joe Reedy of The Associated Press. George, who missed three months with a torn ligament, has been excellent since returning last week and the team has gone 5-1 in the games he has played. “The elbow’s fine. It feels pretty good,” George said. “Overall, I’m trying to take each possession for what it is and trying to make the best play possible.”
  • Norman Powell is happy to back in time for the postseason after fracturing a bone in his left foot shortly after being traded to the Clippers, per Mirjam Swanson of The Orange County Register. “I’m excited for what we’re building here,” Powell said after returning Wednesday. “Playing along PG, it still doesn’t seem real to me. He was a guy that I looked up to growing up, a guy, we had some battles in Toronto in the playoffs, and early on in my career he gave me some words of encouragement – my rookie year, that stuck with me. So being able to play alongside with him, and Kawhi (Leonard) when he gets back healthy, it’s going to be fun.”

Pacific Notes: George, Curry, Lundberg, Suns

Paul George returned from a three-month absence Tuesday night and showed no signs that he had ever been gone, writes Mirjam Swanson of The Orange County Register. Playing his first game since December 22, George logged 31 minutes, scored 34 points and helped the Clippers erase a 25-point deficit in a win over the Jazz.

“In the beginning, legs were a little heavy,” said George, who had been sidelined with a torn ligament in his shooting elbow. “But after second wind and everything settled, got the jitters out, everything came back and I felt fresh, I felt really good.”

He credits assistant coach Brian Shaw for helping him get back into game shape, saying Shaw had him do “a ton of running.” George added that the pain is gone from his elbow and he estimates that its about 90% of being at full strength. He admits that he considered shutting down the season after getting injured, but decided to trust the advice of team doctors.

“Honestly, right after it happened, I was on the side of just getting surgery and getting over it and getting it done now so I don’t have to go into a summer rehabbing and healing and nursing an injury,” George said.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Warriors guard Stephen Curry hasn’t resumed on-court activities since suffering a sprained ligament in his left foot, tweets Kendra Andrews of ESPN. Coach Steve Kerr said Curry’s workouts have been limited to the weight room and pool. The team plans to reevaluate his condition on Friday.
  • Gabriel Lundberg‘s NBA debut will be a memorable way to cap off a chaotic month, per Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Lundberg was playing in Moscow when Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine. He opted to leave to protect himself and his family, taking them back to his native Denmark before signing a two-way deal with the Suns on March 12. “It’s been a pretty hectic couple of weeks, to say the least,” Lundberg said. “Moving around. A lot of elements we needed to get a hold of. From getting my visa to getting out of the situation in Russia, waiting on my visa coming here. Getting acclimated to the system. Getting to know everyone. Waiting and joining the guys, but overall, I think it’s been a pretty good process.”
  • The Suns are hoping to host the All-Star Game soon, according to Evan Sidery of Basketball News. The team will submit a bid to host the game in 2025 and plans to try again for 2026 if that’s unsuccessful.

Paul George To Return On Tuesday

MARCH 29: Barring any setbacks in his pregame workout, George will return to the Clippers’ lineup tonight against the Jazz, per Shams Charania of The Athletic.

MARCH 28: Paul George could be back in action for the first time in more than three months on Tuesday.

The team’s PR department listed the Clippers star forward as questionable to play against Utah, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN tweets.

George hasn’t suited up since December 22 due to a torn ligament in his shooting elbow. He was averaging 24.7 PPG, 7.1 RPG and 5.5 APG prior to the injury.

George played five-on-five in practice on Sunday as he continued to make steady progress from the injury, Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times writes.

Clippers coach Tyronn Lue spoke on Monday about the possibility of George playing this week. The Clippers will head to Chicago on Thursday and Milwaukee on Friday after hosting the Jazz.

“We’ve just got to see how (Monday’s) practice goes and see how he’s feeling and then just go from there,” Lue said. “Whatever the medical staff seems to think is ideal, that’s what we’ll do.”

The Clippers are virtually locked into the eighth spot in the Western Conference. They have lost five straight and George’s return will obviously be a major boost for them heading into the postseason.

“It would be huge,” Lue said of George’s potential return, according to the Orange County Register’s Mirjam Swanson (Twitter link). “Like I always say, hope is stronger than fear. So to have the hope that he could come back would be great for our team… right now we’re dragging a little bit and to get a guy like PG back would definitely help us out.”

Los Angeles Notes: James, Davis, Coffey, Ojeleye, Powell

Lakers star forwards LeBron James and Anthony Davis are listed as doubtful to play Tuesday at Dallas, Dave McMenamin of ESPN tweets. James injured his left ankle against New Orleans on Sunday and under treatment on Monday. In Davis’ case, it’s an upgrade. Davis went through a full, live practice for the first time since he suffered a mid-foot sprain on February 16.

We have more on the Los Angeles teams:

  • Amir Coffey has been a steady contributor since Clippers forward Paul George was sidelined and his status won’t change when the perennial All-Star forward potentially returns on Tuesday, Mirjam Swanson of the Orange County Register tweets. Coffey is averaging 8.9 PPG, 2.8 RPG and 1.8 APG in 23.6 MPG in his third NBA season. “He’s earned it, last three years, the work he’s put in … this season he’s kind of kept us afloat,” Lue said.
  • Coffey had his two-way contract converted to a standard one this weekend and Semi Ojeleye was waived to make room for him on the 15-man roster. It was due to the franchise’s desire to reward Coffey rather than anything regarding Ojeleye’s play. Lue said Ojeleye “did everything right” and was sad to see him depart, Greif tweets.
  • Norman Powell still has a number of steps to go before returning from his left foot injury. The Clippers forward has done some shooting but hasn’t progressed beyond that in his recovery, Greif added in another tweet.

Clippers Notes: George, Rivers, Moon, Preston

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.

Paul George Practices With Clippers

Clippers star Paul George practiced with the team on Thursday for the first time since he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, writes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. George hasn’t played in a game since December 22.

George is listed as out for Friday’s game against Philadelphia and there’s no official timetable for his return, but he’s clearly making progress as he recovers from the injury.

He is doing good,” coach Tyronn Lue said prior to Thursday’s practice. “He hasn’t felt any pain so that is a positive thing. Just working on his conditioning and just making sure he can continue to go through the minimal contact without having any issue. So as of right now, it hasn’t been a problem.”

Lue also said that Norman Powell has begun shooting on the court with the team, but is still limited to non-contact work. Powell broke a bone in his left foot after just three games with his new club. He was acquired in a trade with the Blazers ahead of the February deadline.

At 36-38, the Clippers are currently the No. 8 seed in the West. Despite losing four straight games, their place in the standings is pretty secure, as they trail the No. 7 Timberwolves by six games and hold a four-and-a-half game lead on the No. 9 Lakers with only eight games remaining.

Youngmisuk states that the Clippers hope to reduce the minutes for veterans Nicolas Batum, Marcus Morris, and Reggie Jackson ahead of the play-in tournament.

Paul George Shows Progress In Recovery From Elbow Injury

Paul George is progressing in his rehab and Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said he’s willing to play George, Kawhi Leonard or Norman Powell when they’re ready, even if they don’t return before the end of the regular season, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

George has not played since December 22 due to a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. He participated in a 4-on-4 practice against assistant coaches with minimal contact on Sunday.

“He’s feeling better,” Lue said. “That is part of his rehab, having minimal contact with the coaches and trying to get his wind and just kind of see how he feels. To get him on the court for the first time was really good to see, got to continue to keep working and see how he is feeling going forward.”

The Clippers, who have lost three straight, are essentially locked into the play-in tournament. They’re currently eighth in the Western Conference, 6.5 games behind the sixth- and seventh-place Timberwolves and Nuggets with nine games to play. They’re 4.5 games ahead of the ninth-place Lakers.

Leonard hasn’t played this season after undergoing knee surgery last summer. Powell, who fractured a bone in his left foot shortly after he was acquired from Portland at the trade deadline, shed his walking boot last week but hasn’t yet cleared been cleared for contact, according to Mirjam Swanson of the Orange County Register.

Lue won’t hesitate to use any of them in the playoffs.

“To hit the playoffs going at 100, from zero to 100, that is pretty tough. But if the medical guys say they are cleared and they are able to do that, that is totally up to them,” he said.

Injury Notes: Leonard, George, Bulls, D. Green, Reddish

Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard took part in a “rigorous” pregame workout that lasted well over an hour on Tuesday, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports said during TNT’s broadcast (video link via Justin Russo). According to Haynes, it looked like Leonard had “zero limitations” during that workout, but head coach Tyronn Lue said the two-time Finals MVP still hasn’t been cleared for contact, as Mirjam Swanson of The Southern California News Group relays.

Although Kawhi is clearly making progress, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski stated on Wednesday’s episode of NBA Today that a return this season is “more realistic” for teammate Paul George than for Leonard (video link). The Clippers haven’t ruled out the possibility of Leonard playing this spring, but Woj notes that it’s still been less than eight months since he underwent ACL surgery, which would be a very quick turnaround even if his recovery is ahead of schedule.

The Clippers are in position to make the play-in tournament and could extend their season by earning one of the West’s final two playoff spots, but the team may not be comfortable bringing back Leonard in the postseason without any regular season reps.

“I spoke to Coach Lue,” Haynes said on TNT last night. “And he told me that if he can’t get his guys back for games in the regular season, then it wouldn’t be safe for them to return in the playoffs.”

Here are a few more injury updates from around the NBA:

  • The Bulls have cleared Alex Caruso (wrist) for full contact and Patrick Williams (wrist) for “minimal” contact, per head coach Billy Donovan. As K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago writes, there’s still no set timeline for either player to return to action. However, if Caruso is able to fully participate in the team’s next practice on Friday, he could be on track to play soon.
  • Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said today that swingman Danny Green will “most likely” miss Thursday’s game vs. Brooklyn due to a finger laceration, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN (Twitter link). Due to the risk of his stitches reopening, Green may end up being sidelined for a week or more, tweets Kyle Neubeck of
  • The Knicks have three games left on their current road trip, but forward Cam Reddish has returned to New York in order to have his injured right shoulder reevaluated, head coach Tom Thibodeau said today (Twitter link via Fred Katz of The Athletic). The injury, which Reddish sustained on Monday, is being called a sprain for now.