Paul George May Have Played His Last Game for Clippers This Season, Making a Kawhi Leonard Return ‘Slim to None’

For the first time since his Indiana Pacers days, Los Angeles Clippers small forward Paul George was the best player on his team this season. Since Kawhi Leonard hasn’t played due to an ACL tear, George was the leader and first option for a Clippers squad that started the campaign 8-4.

Unfortunately for George and the Clippers, the good times didn’t last long. The team is 21-22, and George hasn’t played since December 22 due to an elbow injury and may have played his final game of the season.

Paul George reportedly could be out for remainder of season

According to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, the Clippers are operating under the possibility that George may not return this season. The seven-time All-Star suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.

The Clippers announced the injury on Christmas Day and said George would be re-evaluated in three to four weeks. If the playoffs started today, Los Angeles would be the eighth seed in the West and participate in the play-in tournament.

George has appeared in 26 games this season. He’s averaging 24.7 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 5.5 assists while shooting 42.1% from the field, 32.3% from beyond the arc, and 88.0% from the free-throw line. The Clippers were 14-12 with the All-NBA swingman in the lineup and looked like a playoff team.

However, they have slipped in the standings since George went down and could be sellers instead of buyers at the trade deadline, making a Leonard return “slim to none.”

Paul George injury could mean Kawhi Leonard sits out season

A source with knowledge of Leonard’s thinking who spoke to Fischer would be surprised if the two-time Finals MVP plays this season. Although Leonard is reportedly ahead of schedule in his recovery from an ACL tear, there remains a healthy dose of skepticism around the league about the two-time Defensive Player of the Year playing in 2021-22.

“He’s always played things methodically and cautiously,” said one source with knowledge of Leonard’s thinking. “I knew he was ahead of schedule [in his rehab], but I wouldn’t bet on it. Kawhi is always focused on the long term. If they’re not in the playoff picture, I think the chances he comes back are slim to none.” 

The Clippers won’t make the 2022 playoffs if Leonard and George are out. They could have been a postseason squad if George didn’t get hurt, but PG’s injury has presented the front office with a new reality.

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There could be a fire sale in Los Angeles since it appears Leonard and George won’t return this season. According to Fischer, the Clippers are willing to discuss the majority of their veteran roster in trade scenarios.

“They’re pretty much open for business for anyone except their main guys and Terance Mann. I think they really are fine falling out of the playoffs and regrouping for next year,” said one Western Conference official. “I think they’re trying to shed the Marcus Morrises of the world, guys that have some value and maybe can replace them with younger talent, maybe cheaper [contracts], to free them to get someone else this summer.”

The Clippers will be contenders once Leonard and George share the court again. Until then, they should look to trade veterans for draft picks since the Oklahoma City Thunder hold their unprotected 2022 first-round selection.