Following their 114-107 victory in Washington, the LA Clippers are sitting as the seventh seed in the western conference. The team faced numerous injuries and minute restrictions with starting the season. And it is affecting the product on the court. Where they currently sit in the standings is not bad. But it might not be too good considering the ease of teams they already faced and the difficulty of the rest of the season. Nonetheless, fans have been restless considering the team’s stars’ availability, lackluster starts, and rotations. The organization is certainly cautious, but the Clippers straddling between health and reps is creating a tough situation for this team’s championship hopes.
LA Clippers Straddling Between Health and Reps
Starting the season, star forward Kawhi Leonard would not check in until halfway through the second quarter. Fast forward a couple of months, and he is now a starter. But still on a restriction as he ramps up to get back into mid-season form. Head coach Ty Lue mentioned Leonard’s bench role as “nasty”, which is something everyone can agree on. It threw off rotations and maybe even some of the players’ rhythm as their two-time Finals MVP sat for an entire period. Leonard’s health is definitely something to be cautious about, but is the team being too careful?
Lue mentioned that Leonard, along with Paul George, wants to play more. This came after both stars returned against the Orlando Magic. Both had minute restrictions which generated a wonky ending to their overtime loss. Leonard, who already logged 29 minutes, started on the bench during overtime. George, who logged 33, did the same. However, with one minute left in the extra session, Leonard checked in to help the team. George later checked in with under ten seconds remaining for the final play.
The loss stung, but the management of the stars caused more frustration. Is it bad to be overly cautious with a team of two stars who have been hurt every season? Not at all. But the outrage from the fans is warranted in a way. Mainly due to the team’s lack of real reps together. Leonard has only suited up for eight games out of the 28 this season. George appeared in 20 so far. It seems as if when guys come back, others go out. As both stars returned, Norman Powell was sidelined with a groin injury. A bummer considering he started to find his footing as the lead sixth man.
John Wall also is on an injury management plan which could be throwing a wrench in Lue’s rotations. It would be more helpful if he can alleviate the strain that Reggie Jackson is going through. It feels like with all the caution that the team exercises for the stars, they are doing the opposite with Jackson. Letting him play through pain and numerous injuries like his groin or hip/back contusion. He deserves a break and some praise for going out there no matter what he is facing.
Hope for the LA Clippers
But amidst all the wonky rotations, restrictions, and injuries, I have hope. Against the Wizards, George played 41 minutes. A great indication that his restriction could be lifted already. He also played in a road back-to-back in Orlando and Miami. More optimism for his availability. This is important considering how well he is playing as of late. Leonard also looks good movement-wise. His jumper is not falling efficiently yet, but that will come with reps and time to get his legs under him.
I am optimistic even though we are still in the “dark tunnel” that Leonard mentioned the team will go through. Will health and reps alleviate the team’s bottom five points in the paint rank? Probably not, but the roster is good enough to get back on track. Don’t be surprised if a trade comes to inject more youth and athleticism. With this team, anything can happen. There are plenty of concerns, but we need more time and reps. And hopefully, the lifting of restrictions soon can let us see some progress.