The Los Angeles Clippers have confirmed that they will be without Kawhi Leonard as well as Paul George and Luke Kennard for their upcoming back-to-back against the Portland Trail Blazers and the Utah Jazz.
Kennard is the longest-serving absentee of the trio having missed the past six games with a right calf strain, while George and Leonard have missed the last four and three games respectively, the former with a hamstring tendon strain and the latter with an ankle sprain.
It compounds a start to the season in which the Clippers haven’t been able to field their strongest players on a regular basis, though there have been some highlights along the way during their 12-9 run – Ivica Zubac’s 31 and 29 game against the Indiana Pacers serves as the most recent standout example of this squad’s ‘next man up’ mentality. With that in mind, both Moussa Diabate and Jason Preston are with the team in Portland after starring for the Ontario Clippers in the G-League this season.
Coach Tyronn Lue has also reportedly insisted that the ability to give shots to guys like John Wall, Norman Powell and Reggie Jackson is a positive while his best shooters are sidelined, with the hope being that those auxiliary guys will be in a groove by the time the team’s leading stars return.
However, Clippers fans could be forgiven for thinking it’s a familiar tale for a franchise that hasn’t quite been able to get healthy since they made the big trade for George and Leonard that was supposed to catapult them into championship contention.
Lue has tried to allay fears by suggesting that none of the absentees are long term and taking things a game or two at a time, but with a significant amount of time already missed by Leonard in particular, belief in those words will continue to wear thin.
Asked Tyronn Lue today about what happens with the team when Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are recovering instead of in their place of leading by example.— Law Murray (@LawMurrayTheNU) November 26, 2022
Lue praised the other vets, and also said Leonard and George having a voice means a lot to the team even though they're hurt pic.twitter.com/HcnS2ZxznC
In the meantime, we’ll all be hanging our hopes on the hot hand of Zubac and the Clippers’ not-insignificant supporting cast. Who will be the ‘next man up’ to make NBA history?