The Los Angeles Clippers have done a valiant job of staying afloat without their best players. Kawhi Leonard has not played this season and Paul George has suited up just 26 times, but the Clippers still boast 27-27 record, good the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. That success is hugely significant. Even if the Clippers were forced into the play-in round, they’d be among the scariest teams in the NBA if they got healthy in time for the playoffs.
Sadly, it doesn’t look like they’re going to return to full strength any time soon. Clippers coach Ty Lue revealed after Thursday’s dramatic win over the rival Lakers that Leonard is “probably not gonna come back” and that the Clippers “don’t know that status” of George. He said that he hopes Leonard is able to take the floor, but at this point, he seemingly believes that the partially torn ACL that knocked him out of the 2021 playoffs is probably going to keep him sidelined until next season.
George’s situation is unclear. The All-Star forward has a torn UCL in his right elbow. If he has surgery, he will likely miss the remainder of the season. Thus far, he has not had surgery. A return is therefore possible, but at this point there is no telling how long he will be out.
If Leonard is going to miss this season regardless, it might be in the team’s best interest to shut George down as well. Without Kawhi they simply lack the championship equity to risk further injury to George. Next season, if the Clippers are healthy, they should be right back in the thick of things. For now, though, their championship odds just took a major hit.