LOS ANGELES – With seven games left in the regular season, the Los Angeles Clippers are expected to make a lineup change they hope will help get them on the right track heading into the postseason. According to sources with knowledge of the situation, Nicolas Batum is expected to replace Marcus Morris in the Clippers' starting lineup for the remainder of the season, and Robert Covington is expected to take over Batum's spot as the backup forward or small-ball center.
This comes after Morris started for all 65 games he played in this season. This season, Morris is averaging 11.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game, but had really been struggling over the last few months of the season.
Morris missed Monday night's game against the Bulls with an illness.
Since the All-Star break, Morris had been shooting just 39.7 percent from the field and 23.5 percent from three. Morris had started the season off hot for the Clippers, averaging 14.7 points and 5.1 rebounds on 48.8 percent shooting from the field and 40.2 from three.
The last few games had gotten tricky for the Clippers, as it became increasingly clear that opposing players like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jalen Williams, Brandon Ingram, Trey Murphy, and CJ McCollum were hunting Morris during games against the Oklahoma City Thunder and New Orleans Pelicans, respectively.
The Clippers, in their own right, hadn't been playing their best basketball. They weren't following the game-plans of late, which had head coach Tyronn Lue joking about changing his approach.
“Maybe I should,” Lue said with a laugh. “You make a good point, maybe I should if we keep making the same mistakes and you don’t do what we’ve been working on the last three years maybe I should change my tactic. I’m gonna work on that.”
Nicolas Batum, who is expected to replace Marcus Morris in the starting lineup, has shot 48 percent from the field and 44.1 percent from three since the All-Star break. On the season, Batum is shooting 42 percent from the field and 39.1 percent from three.
Lue confirmed ClutchPoints' report during his postgame press conference, saying Batum would start for the remainder of the season.
“It was nothing that Marcus did wrong,” Tyronn Lue explained. “We're just trying something different. And when you’re not playing well, you want to try something different and Marcus was all for it. We have to sacrifice if we want to win at a high level and our guys have bought into that even in the playoffs two years ago, last year, and now.
“So it’s just something we needed to try different and, like I said, Nico played great so I hope he can continue this. But you know I just think giving them a different look especially with [Paul George] being out, adding Nico, which is another defender to the starting lineup, I think will help us out. We’ll see going forward.”
With Batum starting, Robert Covington is expected to take over the nightly role off the Clippers bench as the backup four or even small-ball five. Covington hadn't played a big role the majority of the season, and in an interview with ClutchPoints last week, revealed that the role he's had so far this season is not the one he expected to have.
Head coach Tyronn Lue would not confirm or deny the extent of Robert Covington's role moving forward.
Covington has only appeared in 42 games for the Clippers this season, averaging 5.9 points and 3.4 rebounds on 42.7 percent shooting from the field and 36.1 percent from three. His role fluctuated all season, but he was never more than one of those ‘In Case Of Emergency' guys on the Clipper bench.
Following Tuesday night's game against the Bulls, the Clippers have just six games remaining in the regular season.
Injury note: Norman Powell, who is recovering from the left shoulder subluxation suffered on March 2nd against the Golden State Warriors, is close to a return to the Clippers lineup. Powell will travel on the team's upcoming three-game road trip and is expected to play at some point on the trip. The Clippers take on the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday and Friday before flying to New Orleans to face the Pelicans.