By Cameron Buford, whatsgoodinsports.com
Just as you might have thought, the Clippers are struggling to play .500 basketball as they miss team leaders Kawhi Leonard for all games and Paul George for the bulk of the season. NBA Champion Kawhi Leonard has missed all 55 games to rehab his reconstruction right ACL while twelve-year veteran Paul George has missed 29 games thus far this season with a right elbow-ulnar collateral ligament tear. It is up in the air as if either guy will return to the lineup and help out this gritty youthful roster.
Without their stars to lead the way, these Clippers have been relying on career journeyman Reggie Jackson to lead the way for this young group. Not only has Jackson won games for the Clippers, as he just did last week against the Lakers. Jackson is currently enjoying career highs in rebounds per game (3.4) and free throw percentage (85.7%), most impressively to this point this season he has a career-best 16.6 points per game. With Jackson scoring less than double digits in only eight games out of 51 games this season, his consistency has been very impressive.
They’ve also got inspiring play from their guys like Amir Coffey and Brandon Boston Jr.. Each has been an integral part of the growth of this team. In his third season in the league, Coffey’s minutes per game has ballooned to 22 minutes, more than doubling his nine minutes per game last season. Boston Jr. is getting his first look at the league and has shown promise as he’s scored in double figures in over 20% of the games he’s played.
With the trade deadline rapidly approaching, the Clippers prove, yet again, they are willing to make the necessary adjustments to field a quality roster. By packaging guard Eric Bledsoe, with forwards with Justice Winslow and Keon Johnson, the Clippers were able to turn those guys into guard NBA Champion Norman Powell and versatile forward Robert Covington. With Powell and Covington’s ability to defend guards and forwards with ease, it’s a bonus that they both can score the ball as well. Powell showed this off, as he dropped 28 points on 56.3 percent shooting in his Clippers debut.
Without Kawhi and Paul George, the young guys and the new guys will have some time to gel with each other while playing solid minutes. The culture established by head coach Ty Lue allows players to flourish while seamlessly meshing into a resilient unit. Evidence of their resilience has been seen multiple times this season against the Washington Wizards, the Clippers became the first team over the last 25 seasons to have three comeback victories (in a single season) when trailing by at least 24 points. The Clippers are the only team in the NBA to have such multiple comebacks this season.
Clippers fans are left to imagine how this tough gritty squad combined with frequent All-Stars Leonard and George makes them a top-three contender in the Western Conference. However, it is feasible that the Clippers play without Kawhi this entire season. Though technology continues to improve rapidly and athletes are healing quicker than ever, should we expect Kawhi to return at full strength and keep up while other teams are playing for playoff positioning? The same goes for Paul George; though he’s played earlier this season, how impactful can he be late in the season or should they shut him down for the remainder of the season?
It’ll be interesting to see how the Clippers utilize their personnel down the stretch of this season. I would never second guess coach Lue, though my questions coming into this season remain unanswered. Would Kawhi push his return to the court this season? Who would step up to assist Kawhi and George carry the load? How would the Clippers approach this season while they await Kawhi’s return?
Well, we are still waiting on Kawhi; Paul’s return is tenuous at best. Not confusing resiliency for great basketball, Ty Lue does have these guys playing inspired basketball. Can this continue? What impact will Powell and Covington have? Do we see Kawhi and Paul this season? What are your thoughts on these Clippers, and how do you see their season playing out? Let me know by reaching out to me on Twitter @whatsgoodnsport or email or email@example.com.
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