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Clippings: There is no timeline for Serge Ibaka’s return

Ibaka has been out for seven weeks with lower back tightness.

Detroit Pistons vs. Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

The Clippers welcomed back one of their long-lost starters Tuesday, as Patrick Beverley made his return from hand surgery after missing 12 games.

However, the return of Serge Ibaka remains elusive. Ibaka has been out the last 26 games, originally due to lower back tightness, and Ty Lue said there is still no timeline for when the former starting center could be back in the lineup. Lue couldn’t even specify exactly what injury Ibaka is continuing to deal with.

“Don’t have a potential return date,” Lue said prior to the Raptors game. “I know Serge has been doing everything in his power the last five, six, seven hours a day of just rehabbing, trying to get himself back. And seeing him on the floor the last few times playing 4-on-4, 5-on-5, just trying to get used to getting hit again, getting banged, the physicality of the game, that’s gonna take some time, especially when you come off the situation that he’s going through right now. And that’s to be expected, but for him to be out there on the floor is a positive for us right now. We don’t have a return date as of right now.”

What will be interesting to see when Ibaka does return is what his role in the rotation is. Beverley came off the bench for the first time this season in his first game back. The point guard did have a minutes restriction, but Lue also indicated that there is a path to Reggie Jackson starting.

“I go on matchups and just feel for the game,” Lue said postgame. “If it’s matchup-driven, that’s kind of how I coach in the playoffs. We don’t know who we’re going to play first round but just working on different stuff so guys are comfortable playing on the floor with different combinations.... So we’re just trying to figure it out right now, what’s best for us going forward.”

In that vein, even though Ibaka was the starter prior to his injury, it sounds like the Clippers would be amenable to keeping Ivica Zubac in the first five. At a certain point, the team has to use lineups that have experience together, and Zubac has been there every single game.

Of course, this isn’t even a question right now with Ibaka’s injury timeline still nebulous. Hopefully, he figures out how to work through whatever is ailing him, because Ibaka was the prize of free agency for the Clippers, and they still need him to reach their ultimate goals.

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