The Clippers are coming off a very nice 14-point victory in Dallas — a Halley’s Comet special, meaning that Kawhi Leonard and Paul George were actually on the floor together — so there is joy and happiness around the club. Or at least a temporary cessation of anxiety.
In the fourth year of the Leonard-George administration — a ticket that was supposed to get the franchise into the NBA Finals for the first time — there has been more waiting and obstacles even beyond the load management that has managed mainly to keep the Clips in limbo. Followers of the team have heard more about Kawhi’s right knee and PG’s hamstring than they’d wish.
League sources are painting differing portraits to Heavy Sports. One is of an overall nagging headache that won’t seem to abate and another that acknowledges the frustration but pleads for what little patience is available.
“It’s not good, and it’s hard to see it getting better,” said one source. “If you could get Leonard and George to play together for some consecutive games, that might help a lot, but no one there seems to think that’s going to happen any time soon. It hasn’t happened, and we’re more than halfway through the season.”
Kawhi & PG13: ‘It’s Just Ridiculous’
The situation is weighing on coach Tyronn Lue, who must craft an ever-changing plan.
“That is definitely the case,” said the source. “That’s been for a while actually. I mean, they had minutes restrictions at one point, and then you have guys just sitting out, and it’s hard to tell from night to night. You can just watch them play and you can tell the chemistry isn’t where they want it. But it’s hard, because things are always changing. You have to assume the other players are not too happy about it either, even though they’re getting to play more minutes. It’s like, what is this stuff every single night? It’s just ridiculous.”
Said one NBA personnel veteran, “They obviously have a loaded roster with a lot of good players and all that kind of stuff, but they’ve never had any flow or consistency to the season with all these guys sitting out.”
Of Leonard and George, a league scout said, “They’re good players. They’re very good players. But they’re not great players anymore, I don’t think. Are these guys franchise guys? They certainly don’t play like it. But, you know the NBA, things can turn around quickly. It’s just hard to see that happening there.”
Patience Is a Virtue?
Another source with knowledge of the situation pointed to Leonard going for 30 and George adding 21 (on combined 16 for 29 shooting) in Dallas as a rebuttal.
“I think the frustrating thing, not just for Ty, but for everybody, is all the other stuff that’s happened that’s gone outside of the plan (to manage the rehab),” he said. “Not major injuries, but injuries that nobody can control. Guys aren’t able to play or just wanting some extra time. Like, Kawhi’s got a plan; the unfortunate thing is he hurt or tweaked some other stuff in between. Everybody knew he wasn’t playing both games of a back-to-back and then he got hurt and had to miss more games, which was precautionary because of what he went through. Then he came back and he got hurt again. He hit some bumps that weren’t included in the plan. Paul tried to come back too soon. He tried to play, and he probably shouldn’t have. Everybody wants to get on track.”
Added the source, “At the end of the day, Kawhi did this in Toronto. I think the big difference is that everybody’s frustrated just because of these other injuries. The goal hasn’t changed, but things keep getting in the way of what everyone wants to see, and that’s hard for everybody. Obviously it hasn’t been flowing great, but it’s been next to impossible.
“There’s definitely frustration, but I don’t think there’s the splintering that some people are talking about. At the end of the day, the plan is still the same, and that’s to be clicking on all cylinders come the end of the season. Everybody thinks it’s going to happen overnight whenever Kawhi and Paul get back on the court together, but that ain’t going to be the case. They need time together with everyone to get a rhythm and make it work as a whole.”