Paul George doesn’t know when he’ll be ready to return from his sprained right knee, “but I’m going to do everything I can to shorten the process,” the Clippers’ All-Star forward said on his podcast.
The Clippers aren’t in a position to make long-term plans either, but they’re trying to do everything they can to extend how long they play if George’s return is possible.
In the third game since George injured his knee, and Kawhi Leonard scored 22 points in a new starting lineup after taking an elbow to the face two nights earlier, the Clippers beat Chicago 124-112 on Monday night at Crypto. com Arena to keep a tenuous hold on a first-round playoff series.
With two games in Memphis and a third game in New Orleans this week, the Clippers (40-36) remain in fifth place, half a game behind Phoenix but just one game out of seventh place, a position that will be contested in the game. -In the tournament Given how tight the Western Conference standings are, there’s a lot of work to be done. But two nights after a forgettable 21-point loss to the Pelicans, the Clippers rejuvenated new starter Nicolas Batum, whose effectiveness spanned the entire roster.
Batum learned Sunday night that he would start and remain the starting power forward, replacing Marcus Morris Sr., during the regular season. Coach Tyronn Lue would not say whether Robert Covington will step into a backup role or whether Morris will have a role. The move had been discussed internally since early March, but making the switch represents a significant change, as Morris has been a mainstay in the starting line-up since 2021.
Leonard said Batum adds pace and defense to the starting unit.
“It wasn’t that Marcus did anything wrong, he just tried something different,” Lue said. “And when you’re not playing well, you want to try something different, and Marcus was all for that. We have to sacrifice if we want to win at a high level.”
The lineup that had struggled in the previous two games shot 65% from the field, including 59% (16 27) on threes, and dished out 25 assists against seven turnovers. Batum made a season-high eight 3-pointers and scored 24 points. In a third quarter where he hit three three-pointers, the Clippers pulled away from the Bulls (36-39), who beat the Lakers the day before.
“I was pretty wide open on every shot,” Batum said. “I like to play like that.”
George had no damage to his knee ligaments, and the team does not believe surgery is necessary.
“I don’t know when that (return) date is, but the last thing I can do is not be involved with what’s going on, who knows how long the injuries last,” George said on an episode of “Podcast P.” Recorded late last week but released Monday morning.
However, reinforcements will be coming soon. Backup Norman Powell is expected to play on the road trip since injuring his left shoulder on March 2. Lue said he will use a nine-man rotation when Powell returns.
“We have to go back. We need its juice. We need his scoring,” Lue said of Powell, who was the NBA’s sixth-ranked draft pick before he injured his shoulder.
Norman Powell is expected to return from a shoulder injury and play for the Clippers this week.
(David Zalubowski/Associated Press)
George’s knee bent backward on a touchdown last Tuesday while fighting for a rebound from Oklahoma City’s Luguentz Dort. He described feeling “throbbing” pain.
“The only thing that went through my mind was, ‘I hope I didn’t screw up too much. I hope I didn’t blow anything up,” said George. “I was like, ‘Damn. Is this it? Is this what you feel when you tear your ACL, when you tear your MCL? Is this that injury?'”
Although one of the podcast’s hosts, Jackie Long, referred to Dort as a “dirty player,” George said he didn’t think Dort’s play was mean.
George said he has been watching Clippers games closely since his injury to stay committed. If he watched Monday, he saw the reunion of Russell Westbrook (12 points, 10 assists, three turnovers) and Patrick Beverley (nine points), longtime fighters who became Lakers teammates this season before both were traded in February. Both, by the way, are close friends of George.
Last month, as the Clippers decided how to fill their final roster spot, the team considered both guards before ultimately signing Westbrook.
“I thought I’d be everywhere,” Beverley said, smiling, when asked if he thought he’d join the Clippers.
The two hugged before the scrimmage, and then Westbrook immediately jumped up as Beverley was fouled and celebrated with his “take it baby” gesture.
It was part of the fast start Luek called for after the Clippers were held back by George’s injury in the previous two games.
The combination of Batum, Westbrook and Eric Gordon had been underutilized before Monday, but played tremendously on short notice.
The team said Morris was unavailable due to illness.
“We’ll get to see more tonight, and move on,” Lue said before the announcement.