LA Clippers: This may be as full-strength as the roster will get

Serge Ibaka, LA Clippers. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Serge Ibaka, LA Clippers. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

It hasn’t felt like the LA Clippers have been fully healthy all season. As soon as one player returns from injury, another is forced to sit out. The most notable injury so far this season, however, has been the mysterious back soreness of Serge Ibaka. He’s been out for nearly two months with this injury and the team might have to make due.

This may be as full-strength as the LA Clippers get the rest of the season.

That’s not the news Clipper Nation wants but it’s the reality that the team is facing. There are just six games left on the team’s schedule, including tonight’s showdown against the Los Angeles Lakers. With so few games left and Serge having been out so long, fans had hoped to see him back on the court to try and play into shape.

Not only does that seem next to impossible, but it also sounds like he possibly may not even be back for the start of the playoffs. Head coach Tyronn Lue told the media before Tuesday night’s game that he doesn’t know when to expect Serge back:

"I know Serge has been doing everything in his power the last five, six, seven hours a day of just rehabbing, trying to get himself back. And seeing him on the floor the last few times playing 4-on-4, 5-on-5, just trying to get used to getting hit again, getting banged, the physicality of the game, that’s gonna take some time, especially when you come off the situation that he’s going through right now. And that’s to be expected, but for him to be out there on the floor is a positive for us right now. We don’t have a return date as of right now."

With only 10 days left on the calendar in the regular season, not having a return date means Ibaka may be out for the long haul. The Clippers did get Patrick Beverley back last game, meaning Ibaka is the only key player still on the injury report. Even if he is able to return during the playoffs, Ibaka will need to get into game shape

What we put on the court tonight versus the Los Angeles Lakers very well may be the playoff roster.

Thankfully, DeMarcus Cousins has stepped up in Ibaka’s absence. The team desperately needed a third center for a situation just like this one and Cousins has been serviceable. Sure, there are questions about his movement and just how effective he can be in the postseason but as a second big man to take up space, the team could do a lot worse. (We could still be playing Patrick Patterson.)

The team has also benefitted from Ivica Zubac being such a quality starter. Even if Ibaka were given a clean bill of health today, it would be tough to rationalize starting him over Zubac at this point. Zu fits well with the starters and will soak up the majority of the center minutes in the postseason. His rim protection will be invaluable and any offense we can get out of him is just icing on the cake.

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This may not be the playoff roster we had hoped for when the season started but it’s the one we have. The LA Clippers are probably about as full-strength as they can get. We’ll have to see if that’s enough.