February 25th was circled on the calendar for everyone associated with the LA Clippers. Paul George’s MRI on his right elbow was anticipated to be a positive day. Unfortunately, the results were not good enough to start the ramp-up period that TNT’s Chris Haynes reported would happen if the MRI came back clean.
“He’s feeling better, making good progress, but he’s gonna need a little bit more time”, said head coach Ty Lue. With only twenty games remaining in the season, the case for shutting down George and Kawhi Leonard is growing stronger.
The Case For Shutting Down the Clippers’ Stars
The LA Clippers are no strangers to injuries. From Elton Brand’s torn achilles to the numerous knocks from Chris Paul and Blake Griffin during the Lob City era. The team is hit by the injury bug in the worst ways. The 213 era is no different. George started his Clippers’ tenure coming off double shoulder surgery. And Leonard started his by load managing his knee in preparation for the postseason. Ever since the superstar forwards joined the team, the Clippers have exercised caution in taking care of their best players. So, why change that mentality now?
The Case to Sit George
Let’s start with George. If all went well with the MRI, he would have a decent ramp-up period to get ready for the postseason. George returning in the second week of March gives him roughly 14 games to get in a rhythm. But now that we know he needs more time, that 14 game period starts to dwindle. At what point do you consider it not worth it to rush him back? Certainly, only five to eight games are not enough for him to get his legs back.
With his injury history with the Clippers, does the reward outweigh the risk? From the shoulder surgeries to the hamstring strain, to the toe edema, and now the UCL tear. George’s body is not something to be messed with. Especially since the Clippers have invested a max contract on him.
The Case to Sit Leonard
With Leonard, things are a bit murkier. The Clippers remain tight-lipped in regards to his status. Law Murray of The Athletic reported that Leonard is working out now without a brace on his surgically repaired knee. While Leonard may look good, the recovery time is still a bit short for a typical ACL injury. Leonard’s surgery occurred in July of 2021. And if he were to return in April 2022, that would mark nine months. Typically, ACL recoveries take 9-12 months. So April is the very earliest he can return, based on typical timelines.
But a return in April means only five games to prep. Far from enough after coming off one of the more major injuries in sports. And given how cautious Leonard is with his body, it does not make sense to rush now.
The Postseason Push
Additionally, going into the postseason is far from easy. First, the Clippers need to get past the play-in. If the standings hold true, they would play the Minnesota Timberwolves on the road. And they are not short of talent. Not to mention the extra motivation that former Clippers’ guard Patrick Beverley will have to knock out his old team. Following them, the Clippers will likely have to play the Phoenix Suns or Golden State Warriors. Two teams that require the Clippers’ absolute best effort and execution. And most importantly, your best players. While the injuries to Chris Paul and Draymond Green make them beatable, it may not be worth it to risk further injury for your franchise stars by rushing them back.
It’s definitely tough for fans to not see the best players play much of the season. But when managing a team, you have to protect them for the long run. The west is open and having both stars back makes the Clippers a legitimate title contender. But if they cannot play to their typical abilities, plus risk injury due to no proper ramp-up, it may be best to focus on next season.
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