The good news for the Clippers: Patrick Beverley was available to play the Toronto Raptors Tuesday night.
The not good news at all? Center Serge Ibaka is nowhere near as close to returning from the back injury – « lower back tightness » as the Clippers call it – that has kept him away since March 15, a span of 26 games and counting.
« I don’t have a potential return date, » Lue said of the 6-foot-10 center’s ongoing rehab. “I know Serge did everything in his power, five, six, seven hours a day just to rehabilitate himself. He’s been trying to recover and seeing him on the floor for the last few times, playing four-on-four, five-on-five. Fifth, I’m just trying to get used to being hit again, being hit, the physicality of the game, ”Lue said.
The former Raptor signed a two-year, free-hand Clippers deal for $ 19 million and reunited with Kawhi Leonard, with whom he won an NBA title in Toronto. Prior to his back injury, Ibaka started all 39 games he played that season and averaged 10.9 points and 6.7 rebounds.
« It will take some time, especially when you get out of the situation he’s going through, » Lue said. « And that is to be expected, but for him at the moment it is positive for us to be out there on the ground. But we currently have no return date. »
If it is supposed to happen, the Clippers’ runway is to bring Ibaka up to date before the playoffs, in short: After Tuesday they only have six games left before their regular season finale on May 16.
To bolster their interior, the Clippers brought decorated veteran DeMarcus Cousins on board and signed him for the remainder of the season on April 26th – a decision he has made with 16 points on each of his appearances since has rewarded.
At the same time, Beverley’s return from a broken metacarpal bone, which he had surgery for on April 9, should help improve the girth, especially on the defensive.
The Clippers – 43-22 on Tuesday – were 7-4 while Beverley’s hand healed. You’re 22-12 without him this season.
Beverley’s hand was broken while attempting to rebound against Phoenix on April 8, a setback that occurred in his second game after missing 12 straight games with knee pain against Golden State on March 14 occurred. Knee pain cost him a total of 20 games this season.
On Tuesday, the NBA all-defensive team, whose “dog mentality” is contagious, would be benched to an unspecified minute limit on Tuesday, Lue insisted, according to Reggie Jackson, a Clippers guard .
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« I’m not going to say (the number) because then you’ll be talking about things (in the media), » Lue said. « But he has a minute limit and we will do our best to adhere to it. »
« You know Pat, » said Lue. “When he plays, he wants to play. But he understands what we’re doing for the right reasons. We do it for him and for his health. As angry as he gets, we’ll still stick to it.
« If Kawhi had to stick to this in the last game (on his return from missing nine of the Clippers’ last ten games and being followed by a sore right foot), (Beverley) has to do the same thing PG did and this one People.
« It’s not personal, it’s something to protect our players. We know they really want to play and compete against each other, but we have to be smart. »
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