The Clippers are 6-3 to start the season, and 6-1 when Kawhi Leonard plays. Even with that (relative) success, the team has been far from whole, as superstar Paul George, acquired at such great cost from the Thunder, has been sitting out while rehabbing from dual shoulder surgeries. Clippers fans have been tracking George’s progress with bated breath, and today, we got a huge update.
George, who has been restricted to light training work and shooting for months, played in a full contact practice today in a 5 on 5 setting, and his return is now imminent. Doc Rivers said that his playing on Monday is a “possibility”, and while I’d expect the Clippers to remain cautious, it certainly seems as though PG will play in at least one Clippers game sometime this week.
With Kawhi on a load management plan, it will be interesting to see what the Clippers do with George. Will he be fully cleared to play big minutes and back to backs right away, since he doesn’t have a potentially degenerative injury like Kawhi? Will he be eased back into action? Will he also be load managed throughout the season? If so, will he and Kawhi play in the same games to gain chemistry and go for the sure win? Or will they be load managed separately to give the Clippers at least one superstar in action every game? There are loads of decisions to be made, and so far, very little indication as to what path the Clippers will take.
Still, George’s return will be huge for a team that has, at times, struggled on both ends of the court. George is a premier shot-creator who can also play off-ball as a shooter, and is one of the best defenders in the NBA. His fit offensively with Kawhi might take some time to gel, but he should provide a massive boost right away on both ends. When George does come back, a whole bunch of Clippers players are likely to lose minutes, including Lou Williams, Landry Shamet, Rodney McGruder, and Moe Harkless. Lou, in particular, might see his role reduced — while he will be as devastating a force as ever off the bench, the Clippers hopefully will have to rely on him less, which can only be good for the now 33 year old guard.
There’s no guarantee that Paul George will look like Paul George right away, but it probably won’t matter in the regular season. The Clippers, already excellent with Kawhi in the lineup, are going to step up at least one level with PG, even if he’s not 100%. Stay tuned, Clippers fans.