For the Clippers, one of the big challenges in the early part of this NBA season has been establishing any consistency with the rash of injuries the team has faced. That was always going to be the case as star forward Kawhi Leonard sits while rehabbing the ACL he had surgically repaired during last year’s playoffs, but it has been exacerbated by a string of pesky injuries to key rotation players.
Only four Clippers—Reggie Jackson, Luke Kennard, Eric Bledsoe and Ivica Zubac—have been healthy for all 27 of the team’s games. Two, Marcus Morris (16 games) and Nicolas Batum (12), have missed significant time and a third, Serge Ibaka, was recovering from a back surgery before returning and ultimately being removed from the rotation.
Now, the Clips are dealing with a persistent elbow injury to Paul George, which originally appeared to be minor but has now kept the star wing out for three games, including Monday’s showdown against the Suns, a rematch of the Western Conference finals. There is some uncertainty about what, exactly, is wrong with George–he called the injury a “sprain,” though the team calls it a contusion.
Coach Ty Lue said that George is still listed as day-to-day, meaning he might yet play on Wednesday when the Clipper go to Utah. But George, according to Lue, has not been practicing.
Clippers’ Lue Not Implementing Full Playbook
The big problem with the depth of injuries the Clippers have had is that there has been no opportunity for Lue to expand his playbook, which is something he said he would usually be doing at this point in the season. But a lack of continuity means the Clippers remain a very simple offensive team.
“Right now, we’re just pretty traditional,” Lue said on Monday night before tipoff against the Suns. “We don’t really run anything hard. Sometimes less is more. So we really condensed what we’ve been trying to do offensively so we can get good at something. Usually you do that after the first 20, 25 games to see what our team can run and what we can’t run. But with so many injuries and guys being out so much, it has been tough to really figure out what we’re good at. We just try to condense it as much as possible and make sure these guys comfortable.”
Clippers Bench Entirely Composed of New Guys
The Clippers do have some continuity on the roster, which would normally allow a team to keep play-calling consistency from year to year. All of the starting five the team has used in the absence of George has been with the team for at least two seasons.
The problem is that the Clippers’ bench is made up entirely of newbies. That group can be anchored by Terance Mann when everyone is healthy, but without George, he has been in the starting five.
Eric Bledsoe, acquired in an offseason trade, has been the sixth man while rookie second-round pick Brandon Boston has carved out a notable role in the past week, particularly with a standout performance against Boston. Center Isaiah Hartenstein and veteran defensive wing Justise Winslow are also slotted for minutes off the bench.
It is not a bad group, but without Mann, none of the second-unit players has been with the Clippers before this year, further eroding the team’s stabs at establishing continuity.