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Without their two best players, the Clippers were crushed by the Kings 123-96 at Crypto.com Arena. Head coach Ty Lue said his star players came out of the Friday practice feeling good and will join the team on its upcoming four-game road trip that starts Monday in Charlotte.
The Clippers’ two best players, who were listed as questionable in the injury report Friday, are nearing a return to the court.
“They felt good,” Lue said of how Leonard and George came out of the practice. “It felt good and so, hopefully, we get them back very soon and they’re going on the trip. So that’s positive.”
Leonard missed his sixth straight game because of a sprained right ankle. George did not play for the seventh consecutive game because of a right hamstring strain.
Leonard and George have only played on the court together in four games this season for a total of 65 minutes. The Clippers are plus-38 with their two stars on the court together, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
Lue said the quick turnaround from Friday’s practice to Saturday’s 1 p.m. tip did not factor into his stars not playing and that they were “not quite ready.” He added that the Clippers’ medical staff will be cautious and smart about Leonard’s and George’s injuries.
“I mean they definitely want to play,” Lue said. “We just gotta be smart about it. You hate to see this happen. Kawhi, who has missed 15 months of basketball, you think he don’t want to play? He wants to play. PG wants to play, and it’s just not the right time. They’re still rehabbing, still progressing and doing the right things, trying to get to that point.
“Hopefully we can get it done on this trip. Being optimistic about it.”
Reggie Jackson, who shot 1-for-12 against the Kings, is also playing while clearly hobbled after taking a hard fall last Tuesday in Portland. Lue was asked if there is any consideration to starting John Wall. Wall has been coming off the bench but has been playing under a minutes restriction and has been held out of one game during back-to-backs after playing in a total of 40 games over the previous three seasons.
“There’s consideration to do a lot of things,” Lue said. “But on a minute restriction right now, it’s just tough to try to start him and get him out and get him back. But it’s a pretty smart observation though.”
Lue said frustrated fans shouldn’t interpret this extended time without Leonard and George as the two stars taking their time to return.
“It’s definitely not a thing where [they don’t want to play],” Lue said. “You’re not gonna sit out eight, nine games in a row because you wanna sit out. Like that could be a one-game situation or a guy [is] like, ‘OK, I’m not feeling good today.’ But eight, nine games in a row, you’re not sitting out because you just wanna sit out and make your own decision, you know?
“They’re injured, they’re hurt and they’re doing everything they can to get back. Hopefully we can get them back on this trip. That’s our main thing right now is trying to get these guys back.”