Since the start of the season, Clipper fans knew that their team might end up suffering the consequences of lacking a complete squad for most of the season. Even before opening night, it’s safe to say that analysts, players, and fans alike knew that the Clippers’ season would end up being defined by injuries and how they could respond to them.
Paul George and Nicolas Batum have been the most recent casualties, with George being sidelined due to a sprained elbow and Batum sitting out because of an ankle injury. In fact, Batum missed several games as he adhered to COVID-19 protocols prior to that ankle injury, forcing the Clippers to compensate for the two-way versatility that he offers day in and day out. Additionally, players like Marcus Morris and Serge Ibaka have also missed crucial time on the court.
Despite these more recent injuries, the Clippers have not fallen apart in the face of a challenge. They’ve won five of their last seven games, with the most recent three wins being acquired without the offensive and defensive leadership of George. Batum only saw 15 minutes of play in that seven-game stretch before he tweaked his ankle, putting even more pressure on players lower on the depth chart to make an impact when they see the floor. They’ve delivered, as seen in games like their win against the Celtics (where Brandon Boston exploded for 27), but the Clippers have failed to emulate the flow and comfort they visibly possessed during their earlier seven-game win streak.
There may be a saving grace, however—Kawhi Leonard’s brief shoot-around prior to the game against the Jazz shows promise:
Kawhi Leonard getting up some shots at shootaround. pic.twitter.com/TUPhTC00Q6— Andrew Greif (@AndrewGreif) December 15, 2021
Clearly, he’s got a long way to go, but knowing that Klay Thompson and Jamal Murray have been sidelined longer than Leonard with the same injury demonstrates just how important it is to see the tangible effects of recovery. We can only speculate how the Clippers’ situation will be if and when Leonard returns, but the primary challenge is clear: the Clippers will need to play consistently enough in the face of injuries to secure a playoff spot. Only then can the Clippers look to Leonard to bring them closer to the reality of a championship.
More news for Friday:
- Speaking of injuries, Zion Williamson remains out as he received a foot injection to help the recovery process.
- Devonte’ Graham’s nearly fullcourt heave to beat the Thunder ended up being the longest game-winner in 25 years, check out the chaotic last seconds here!
- Danny Ainge is the latest high-profile signing of the season, joining the Utah Jazz front office as alternative governor and CEO.
- The Lakers just picked up Isaiah Thomas after his 42-point debut in the G-League.
- Complaints from older fans and players about how the NBA is “soft” have only increased, but this article examining the NBA of the 1970s might show how “soft” is a good thing.