According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Clippers star wing Paul George suffered a sprained right knee in last night’s loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder and will be re-evaluated in 2-3 weeks.
This is ultimately good news for the Clippers, who had much greater fears after George had to be helped off the floor following a scary collision with Lu Dort that saw his knee bend backwards slightly. Still, it’s definitely not ideal–currently in 5th place and just one loss ahead of the play-in tournament pack and two losses ahead of 12th place, the team needs to find wins in their remaining games and will be tasked with doing so without their second-best player. They have 9 games remaining, perhaps none bigger than tomorrow night’s rematch against the Thunder, who currently sit in 7th and are among several teams competing for what are essentially 2 up-for-grabs top-6 playoff spots, currently occupied by the Clippers and Warriors.
A two-week re-evaluation for George would come on April 5th, which is the day of the Clippers’ third-to-last game. Their regular season finale is April 9th. A potential 7-8 “first round” play-in tournament game would be on April 11th. A three-week re-evaluation for George would come on April 12th, the same date as the 9-10 play-in tournament game. The final play-in games will be held on April 14th, with first round playoff series kicking off on April 15th and 16th. Obviously the “re-evaluation” is the key term here–what if they look at it in 3 weeks and decide he needs another 2 weeks? That would put him out until the second round of the playoffs, which wouldn’t be an easy place for the Clippers to get without him. Still, there’s some level of hope: a 5-4 finish to the regular season without George feels reasonable and would probably leave the Clippers in the top 6, depending on how other teams finish. Then, they’d have the play-in week off during his re-evaluation window to hopefully take another look and start ramping him back up for the first round.
In the meantime, the Clippers will need to lean more heavily on Kawhi Leonard to be a consistent 30+ point scorer. Look for Eric Gordon to move into the starting lineup, with sixth man scorer Norman Powell hopefully returning soon and rediscovering his January form to bring a scoring punch off the bench. Clippers coach Ty Lue is also likely to continue leaning heavily on Russell Westbrook and Marcus Morris, who offer higher-volume offensive creation than the alternatives at their position. I’d also love to see the team use this opportunit as an excuse to feature Ivica Zubac more on offense, as he’s been effective in limited post-up touches this season.
We’re far from out of the woods, but this is a good piece of news. If nothing else, it hopefully can assauge concerns that this injury could cost the Clippers a significant piece of next season as well.
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