Finally, the L.A. Clippers are approaching being a healthy basketball team again. After finally getting Milos Teodosic back from a foot injury a couple of weeks ago, and surviving minor injuries to Austin Rivers and Lou Williams, the team will also see Blake Griffin and Wesley Johnson return from ailments of their own tonight. Griffin has been out for a little over a month with a sprained MCL, while Johnson had missed a handful of games with foot soreness.
The Clippers will continue to be without Danilo Gallinari for at least a few more weeks as he recovers from a small tear in his glute. Patrick Beverley will miss the rest of the season following knee surgery.
According to Brad Turner of the L.A. Times, both Blake Griffin and Wesley Johnson will play tonight, with Griffin reclaiming his starting role and Johnson available off of the bench:
Doc Rivers days both Blake Griffin and Wesley Johnson will play tonight vs Lakers. BG will start. Wes will come off bench— Brad Turner (@BA_Turner) December 30, 2017
It’s at least notable that Johnson isn’t starting, as earlier in the season, he was Doc Rivers’ clear first choice to fill in for Griffin or starting small forward Danilo Gallinari at the forward positions. Instead, C.J. Williams, a two-way contract player who earned Doc Rivers’ trust in rotation minutes earlier in the season before moving into the starting lineup recently, will continue to serve as the team’s starting small forward. This decision both casts doubt on Johnson’s status in the lineup (as backup forwards Sam Dekker and Jamil Wilson have both also been playing well since Wesley went out) and highlights the Clippers’ difficult upcoming situation with Williams, who is nearing his 45-day limit on the NBA roster. Wilson is in the same boat, leaving the Clippers to either pay the luxury tax or dump salary from elsewhere on the roster if they want to keep one or both, or else watch both of them spend the rest of the season with the Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario in the NBA G-League. Doc Rivers’ rotations in the next few games will demonstrate how he values these players compared to the options on the NBA roster (three-guard lineups, Sindarius Thornwell, Sam Dekker, and Wesley Johnson), which could hint at whether the team will keep Williams and/or Wilson around.