LOS ANGELES — In his Minnesota nicest, Amir Coffey offered an assessment of Paul George’s performance in practice Thursday. Basically: Duh, how do you think he looked?
“Great. He looked great,” Coffey, the former Golden Gopher standout, said with a grin. “Of course, it’s PG.”
It was George’s first practice since he was ruled out on Dec. 25 with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. The Clippers’ seven-time All-Star wing also took part in shootaround before Friday’s game against Philadelphia at Crypto.com Arena, where he also put up some shots prior to tip-off.
Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said George didn’t take engage in much contact at practice, when the Clippers reported working primarily on defense.
“We were just trying to get back to the basics,” center Ivica Zubac said. “The last few games, we kind of got away from that and we tried to do that. We didn’t do much of contact and stuff.
“But,” Zubac added, “PG looks great.”
Lue kept his proverbial cards close to his chest, although he hedged momentarily when asked whether there were limitations on what George could do – “I don’t know, that was a good question.”
Lue also said he didn’t know when George would be cleared to return. Following Friday’s game, the Clippers have seven regular-season games remaining, starting with Tuesday’s home game – which will be broadcast on TNT – against Utah. But the coach made it sound as if George could return before the regular season concludes.
“Just having that hope that he has a chance to come back, that gives them a lot of hope, especially the job this team has done this year, guys playing out of position, guys taking on bigger roles, you know?” Lue said. “The job the team has done this year, it’s phenomenal. But we could use an extra little bump right now, especially in these dog days, going down the stretch of the season.”
Paul George 👀 getting his handles warmed up before shootaround. Robert Covington still has a black wrap on his hand, but was headed out to the court too. pic.twitter.com/LwAOJoAxHM
— Mirjam Swanson (@MirjamSwanson) March 25, 2022
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) March 26, 2022
HEY AGAIN, OLD FRIEND
Doc Rivers reiterated that he doesn’t particularly look forward to facing Tyronn Lue and the Clippers, a sentiment that likely doesn’t actually have much to do with the fact that his 76ers – who were 45-27 this season entering play Friday – were 1-2 against the Clippers in their three meetings since Rivers and the team split in 2020.
“I hate going up against Ty and (Phoenix coach) Monty (Williams) and all my guys you have a relationship with,” Rivers said. “It’s actually no fun. … It’s funny, it’s so different coaching. When you play against your best friend, you want to destroy him. When you coach against a guy, it’s just a different vibe.”
Rivers spent seven seasons as the Clippers head coach, finishing with a 356-208 and six playoff appearances.
His protege Lue took over last season and led the Clippers to their first Western Conference finals berth. This season, Lue has kept the Clippers in postseason contention despite having played without George for all but 26 games and Kawhi Leonard (ACL) at all.
Rivers said the key to keeping an undermanned team afloat is getting players to believe.
“I’ve had so many years like what Ty’s going through – we had one here – where you just gotta get your guys … to understand there’s 12 guys,” Rivers said. “There’s not just two guys or three guys and they’re good enough. They’re NBA players and you can win games, teams can win games during that period, and I think Ty’s done a great job with that. I mean, he’s really kept them afloat, so it’s been impressive.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism