LOS ANGELES – The LA Clippers fared well over the last two weeks without Paul George, but they were certainly happy to have him back. George made his return from a bone edema in his right toe Friday night against the Utah Jazz. His return, paired with the returns of Kawhi Leonard and Nicolas Batum, sparked the Clippers to a 116-112 victory over the streaking Jazz.
George, who was on a minutes restriction, finished the game with 15 points, six rebounds, five assists, one steal, and one block.
“I feel good,” Paul George said after the win. “I feel good. Moreso just getting back into the swing of things and basketball conditioning and just getting the timing back down.”
“I wasn’t pretty healthy… Just that back-to-back kind of tipped me overboard and I couldn’t recover, I needed some time off because it swelled up.”
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) February 20, 2021
Conditioning was one of the reasons for George’s minute restriction heading into the night. He finished just 6-of-14 shooting from the field, showing clear signs of rust in his first action since facing the Cleveland Cavaliers on February 3rd, more than two weeks ago.
Tyronn Lue wouldn’t divulge the minutes his Clippers were aiming to play George vs. the Jazz, but he ended up at around 27 minutes in the win. Kawhi Leonard was also returning from a three game absence, but was not on any sort of restriction.
[They looked] rusty,” Tyronn Lue said. “I thought they were pretty rusty handling the basketball, timing, that is always going to happen when you sit out. But I loved the way they competed. I thought their competitive spirit was great. But overall just as far as the floor game, I thought it was a little rusty as far as the speed of the game and making plays and ball handling. But that is going to come back for sure.”
George was diagnosed with a bone edema a little over two weeks ago, and panic among some fans started to set in.
Chicago Bulls forward Otto Porter Jr. was initially diagnosed with a left foot sprain on November 6, 2019. It was later determined to be bone edema. He was without a clear timetable and ended up returning on March 2, 2020 — nearly 4 months later.
Boston Celtics center Robert Williams was diagnosed with bone edema in his hip on December 16, 2019 and didn’t return until March 3, 2020.
George explained that the injury was one that bugged him towards the end of the six-game road trip earlier this month, but especially after the back-to-back set against the Brooklyn Nets and Cleveland Cavaliers.
“I wasn’t pretty healthy that game (vs. Cleveland), but I had a stretch where we were playing every other day so I had time to kind of recover going into the games,” George said. “If you recall we played Brooklyn and then we played Cleveland, two tough games that really caused me to have to dig down and push and plant and play off those toes. Just that back to back kind of tipped me overboard and I couldn’t recover, I needed some time off because it was swelled up. You know, I just tried to keep it rolling for the team and it wound up creeping up on me.”
"I wasn't ready to play 30+ minutes today. Gotta get back to that basketball conditioning and get that wind back to where it was. As much as I would've loved to play, I probably would've hurt the team being on the floor past the minutes I played tonight."
– Clippers’ Paul George pic.twitter.com/oEWeE5p6Ig
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) February 20, 2021
Both George and Leonard re-joined the Clippers in Orlando midway through their six-game trip after clearing the NBA’s health and safety protocols. George played against the Magic as well as the final four games of the trip. Each game, the toe kept flaring up and eventually, the Clippers decided to take the safest measures with George.
“It was there, but it wasn’t how it was when we decided to shut it down. When it happened, I thought it was just a sore toe, but it would go down, have a day off, play on it and it’d come back, but it wasn’t as severe as it was again when we had to take a couple days, it was about a couple weeks to kind of recover and get back playing on the court.”
In an ideal world, Paul George admits he would’ve loved to return to his usual role at around 34 minutes per game. He simply not there yet.
“I wasn’t ready to play 30-plus minutes today. Gotta get back to that basketball conditioning and get that wind back to where it was. As much as I would’ve loved to play, I probably would’ve hurt the team being on the floor past the minutes I played tonight.”
The most important news coming out of Friday night’s game, aside from the win over the Jazz? The team came out of his healthy. Kawhi Leonard was able to play 38 minutes in the win. Nicolas Batum returned from his concussion and played 31 minutes. And now George will continue to be ramped up as the All-Star break nears.
Up next for the Clippers will be a game against the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday evening.