For the LA Clippers, the injury report going into their game against the Atlanta Hawks had some surprises in it. Both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George will be held out, with the given reason being “health and safety protocols.”
So, out of nowhere, that’s that. We’re going to be missing both of our superstars. In addition, Patrick Beverley will be out. He didn’t play the second half of the previous game with knee soreness, and he’ll still be missing time now. We can hope, and probably expect, that this is caution more than a long term injury.
As difficult as things will be without our stars playing, it’s possible to look at the silver lining in this.
The LA Clippers reserves have an opportunity with the stars out.
We’ll likely see Luke Kennard get a starting nod, and he’ll have a chance to show what he can do as more of a focus of the offense. We’ve seen him perform well as a complementary piece who can hit wide open jumpers – he’s shooting 45% from three, and 46% on catch and shoot jumpers.
But we know he has the skill to do more than that. Part of the reason the LA Clippers felt comfortable moving Landry Shamet for Luke was Kennard’s ability to put the ball on the floor and make plays, in addition to his shooting. I’m looking for more of that from him against Atlanta.
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Similarly for Lou Williams, I’m hoping for a big game from him. Lou’s having a rough start to the season, averaging just 9 points and 2.7 assists per game after putting up 18 and 5.6 last season. The Underground GOAT is more than capable of getting himself out of this slump, and a game like this provides just the time for him to do it.
An interesting question will be whether the starting lineup goes smaller or bigger. We could see something like Lou/Reggie/Luke/Batum/Ibaka, or they might opt for a more defensive lineup in the frontcourt with Lou/Luke/Batum/Morris/Ibaka.
With such short numbers, there’s also the possibility that we’ll see some time with Ibaka and Zubac out there at the same time. You also have to expect that the young guys will get more run than usual; we’ll certainly see some Terance Mann, and I’m expecting some Grade A Coffee puns from Brian Sieman.
Coach Lue is almost playing with house money here, and we know he loves to tinker. If he figures out a way to pull out a win without three of the most important players on the roster, then great! If he doesn’t, well, we were missing Kawhi and PG and Bev.
It’ll be fun to see how the rest of the guys on the roster react to the tough situation the LA Clippers find themselves in. While it’ll be a hard-fought game without our stars, I still have faith in our backups to bring it home.