Paul George could make his Clippers debut when L.A. visits New Orleans on Thursday. He hasn’t played this season because of surgery on both shoulders that took place before he was traded to the Clippers in the summer.
Los Angeles also has been limiting fellow newcomer Kawhi Leonard’s action on back-to-backs for load management. Generally he has sat out the first game of back-to-backs, but he started and played 41 minutes in a 102-93 loss at Houston on Wednesday night, leaving his status for Thursday unclear.
Whether or not George and Leonard take the court together for the first time Thursday, fans around the NBA are eager to see the pairing that has thrust the Clippers into the discussion of championship contenders.
“You just can’t buy into what people are saying,” Leonard said. “My health is No. 1. That’s what’s gonna make us be a better team, make me be healthy, so we’ll just see how things go.”
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The Clippers are off to a 7-4 start without having their dynamic duo together, but it hasn’t been easy, according to coach Doc Rivers.
“Honestly, it has probably been harder than we thought because we are still in the process of getting Kawhi right 100 percent, and then you don’t have Paul at all,” Rivers said Wednesday.
The Pelicans have had to adapt to a changing lineup on an almost nightly basis. They played without three injured starters in a 122-116 home defeat to the Rockets on Monday, a result that left them with a 2-8 record.
“We can’t feel sorry for ourselves,” New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said. “We’re never going to start using who’s out and who’s not playing as an excuse. We’ve got all of these guys, we put depth on our team, and so next man up has to play and the next man up has to play well.”
No. 1 overall draft choice Zion Williamson is still weeks away from his NBA debut after he had arthroscopic knee surgery on the eve of the season opener. Starting point guard Lonzo Ball is expected to miss his third consecutive game because of a groin injury, and leading scorer Brandon Ingram was a late scratch Monday because of right knee soreness.
An MRI on Ingram’s knee was clear Tuesday, and Gentry said Ingram could play as soon as Thursday.