LOS ANGELES – The LA Clippers' first preseason game is just around the corner, and there's a good chance they'll be short four key rotation players. Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Patrick Beverley have been leading the charge in training camp inside the Orlando bubble. Meanwhile, Montrezl Harrell, Ivica Zubac, Marcus Morris, and Landry Shamet are all outside the Orlando bubble as of Sunday morning with no estimated time for arrival.
Well over a week into training camp, however, the Clippers aren't too worried about those unavailable or outside the bubble right now.
“In terms of missing a couple of guys, I think we've got a veteran group,” Paul George told members of the media this weekend. “We've got guys that know what our mission is. You know, we've been down and missed guys pretty much all season long, so we've been filling it in. We've been holding it down until everybody has been available, and we plan on continuing to do so.”
This is nothing new — LA has been dealing with injuries all season. Of the 64 games played this season, only 11 have featured a lineup without an injury. The Clippers went 10-1 in those games, the lone loss coming on March 8 against the Los Angeles Lakers. On top of that, the team also used 29 different starting lineups, tied for the most different starting lineups in the NBA this season. When Leonard, George, and Beverley all play, the Clippers are 20-5.
Every stat you look to from this season points to the Clippers being an elite team that simply hasn't had the opportunity to play together as much as other contenders.
Winners of seven of their last eight games before the hiatus, the Clippers were finally starting to build chemistry and play to the potential everyone expected them to. From a basketball and chemistry perspective, George admits the hiatus came at an inopportune time.
“It was a little frustrating because we played our way all the way up until that point, we played ourselves into that chemistry, into that zone we were in,” George added. “We were getting guys healthy. You know, that was really the team coming together. We added Reggie, we added Marcus, and we were starting to mold and shape and learn each other. It was tough to take this little break.”
George missed all of training camp as he recovered from dual shoulder surgeries coming into the season. He was also slowed down by repeated hamstring injuries throughout the year. The six-time All-Star remains certain that the four-month NBA hiatus will be beneficial when it's all said and done.
“I think ultimately it's going to pay off. Again, we had so many guys dealing with little nicks and bruises, and we were one of the teams that could have benefitted off of the healing process and coming together healthy.
“This break did wonders for this group, and we're going to pick up where we left off at.”
George only appeared in 42 games for the Clippers this season, averaging 21 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.9 assists, and 1.3 steals per game.
UPDATE: Since this article's publication, forward Marcus Morris has arrived in Orlando, cleared quarantine, and joined the LA Clippers for practice.