LA Clippers Facing Lost Season With Injuries To Paul George And Kawhi Leonard

We'll try again next year, Clips.

We’ll try again next year, Clips.
Image: Getty Images

After the transition to the Western Conference Final for the first season last season, this year has been an up and down battle for the Clippers with key players in and out of the lineup. Kawhi Leonard has not played a game this season after tore his ACL in the second round of the playoffs against Utah last year. And now the Clippers have learned they can spare their other star player, Paul George, for the remainder of the 2021-2022 season.

At the end of December, George suffered a torn elbow ligament and has been sidelined ever since. The Clippers initially announced that he would be re-evaluated in three to four weeks, but now it sounds like they’ll be without PG-13 for the rest of the year.

Of George’s status now up in the air, Kawhi Leonard’s return should also be put on the back burner until the team learns more about PG’s status. Bleacher Report said last week that there is a “high probability” that Leonard will return to the Clippers roster this season.

Leonard’s return from ACL injury is unlikely to change the Clippers’ position in the West without George on the field. They are currently in seventh place, tied with the Lakers at 21-21. With George in the lineup, they were able to stay afloat in the conference’s top six until December.

A return of Leonard in March or April won’t be enough to fly this team past the top teams in the Western Conference. Phoenix, Golden State, Memphis and Utah are all better than the Clippers. Kawhi’s return and getting rid of the rust in the first few weeks won’t be enough for the Clippers to continue into the postseason.

Leonard’s injury history and the fact that he is competing no rush to return until he feels he is 100% healthy are well documented. So even if Kawhi says he’s ready, the Clippers would have to let him sit for a year if George can’t return nearly 100% this season. So if it looks like George won’t be back before the end of March then I’d go ahead and shut both guys down and look at next year.

We willKevin Durant could have returned from his Achilles injury during the 2019-20 pandemic year after the NBA sent everyone into the Orlando bubble. KD chose not to rush anything and stayed put until the next season (less than three months later), and he came back to 100 percent and clenched out. Leonard is only 30 and in the prime of his career, although at times it feels like he is already 35. If he’s right and mostly healthy, Kawhi is still a top five player and a damn good two-way player.

Knowing Leonard’s history is all the more reason for LA to be cautious about his return, because we know he will. And if George doesn’t return soon, there’s really no reason to push for Leonard’s return. The Clippers have no real chance of defeating the Suns or Warriors without Kawhi and PG on the field. Depending on the matchup, they may not make it out of the first round without both players. I know fans hate to hear this, but both players have long histories of serious injuries at this point, and even it seems absurd to rush either guy back to bounce back in the first round turn into.

This Clippers squad finally broke through last year and got bitten by the injury bug in the process with Leonard going down against Utah. That seems to have been carried through this season as George has now been out for an extended period of time. We should know more about both players in the coming weeks, but if I had to guess, I’d say we probably won’t be seeing the Leonard-George tandem for a while. That decision is arguably the best for Ballmer’s business right now.

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