Russell Westbrook and the Los Angeles Clippers are preparing to take on Kevin Durant and the Phoenix Suns in Game 4 of the Western Conference’s first round series. The question is will Paul George be able to return to the Clippers lineup?
Ahead of Saturday’s Game 4 in Los Angeles, the Clippers have ruled out George out due to a right knee sprain. George has been out since suffering the injury on March 21st against the Oklahoma City Thunder, and there has been no indication that he’s close to a return just yet.
Paul George traveled with the Clippers to Phoenix for Games 1 and 2 against the Suns, but was never expected to play in either of those two games.
Paul George is OUT for Game 2 of Clippers-Suns.
Kawhi Leonard and everyone else is good to go for LA.
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) April 17, 2023
Prior to leaving for Phoenix, the Clippers practiced for a week in Los Angeles, where Paul George was seen taking standstill jumpers from all over the court.
Paul George putting up shots at Clippers practice pic.twitter.com/DO24EcLmIQ
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) April 12, 2023
Paul George appeared to ramp it up on Tuesday before Game 2, when he was undergoing an intense workout with members of the Clippers coaching and medical staff. The workout tested George’s mobility and conditioning.
Paul George looking real good with his shooting and mobility in this workout
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) April 18, 2023
Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue was excited at the sight of George on the court before the playoffs officially tipped off.
“Yeah, it’s encouraging to see, especially after the nasty blow that he took,” Tyronn Lue said of George before flying to Phoenix for Game 1. “We thought it could be a lot worse than what it was. So just seeing him be able to do some things and actually starting to feel better, that’s good to see because you don’t want to see your players get hurt and get injured, and it could have been a lot worse than what it was.”
Tyronn Lue on Paul George potentially returning for the playoffs:
“We’re definitely not gonna do anything to hurt PG even if he does try to come back. If he’s not right, then we’re not gonna let him injure himself and make it worse than what it really is.”pic.twitter.com/4fPWPmqks7
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) April 14, 2023
Despite him heading in the right direction, Tyronn Lue reiterated that the Clippers remain focused on getting Paul George as close to 100 percent as possible without risking re-injury.
“We’re definitely not going to do anything to hurt PG,” Tyronn Lue responded when asked when or if he could return. “Even if he does try to come back and he’s not right, we’re not going to let him go because we’re not going to let him injure himself and make it worse than what it really is. When he comes back, we’ll make sure he’s close to 100 percent without being able to injure himself even more.”
In an interview with President of Basketball Operations Lawrence Frank on Thursday before Game 4, Frank said that Kawhi Leonard’s injury would not affect the return-to-play timeline for Paul George.
“I mean, he’s made progress,” Lawrence Frank explained. “But his recovery time hasn’t changed because Kawhi is out tonight. He continues to work his butt off and make progress daily. So day by day.”
The Clippers and Suns will see their first two-day break between Games 4 and 5, and LA has been operating under the assumption that they’ll need to get out of the first round in order to see Paul George return to the lineup. While a return in the first round continues to appear unlikely, it cannot be completely ruled out. Over the last week, George had been going through full-body workouts with a focus on mobility, including vertical and lateral movements.
Paul George is running and going through a workout before Clippers shootaround here at Footprint Center.
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) April 18, 2023
Without George in the regular season, the Clippers have started Eric Gordon in his place, and that has continued throughout the postseason. Gordon started all three playoff games so far, averaging 12.6 points, 2.7 assists, and 2.3 three-pointers per game on 40.6 percent from the field and 36.8 percent from three.
The Suns have released their injury report for Game 4, which has Cameron Payne listed as ‘Questionable’ with lower back soreness. Payne missed Games 1-3 against the Clippers because his movements are still somewhat limited. Kevin Durant and the rest of the squad is healthy and expected to suit up Tuesday.
In his recent episode of, ‘Podcast P with Paul George,’ the Clippers star said he’s making progress, but does not have a timetable to return just yet.
“I’m working my ass off,” Clippers star Paul George said. “I’m trying to get back to Clipper Nation. I’m trying to get back there to support my guys and be there in the trenches with them. Literally working every day.
“I’m working. Just know I’m working. I’m training my a** off. I’m in the best shape, so when that time comes, I’ll be back with the troops and try to go get this trophy.”
Paul George on Podcast P today:
“See y’all Game 3, I’m back! Nah, I’m just playing. I’m working my ass off. I’m trying to get back to Clipper Nation. I’m trying to get back there to support my guys and be there in the trenches with them. Literally working every day.” pic.twitter.com/M2JTOOj0lC
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) April 20, 2023
Game 4 between Russell Westbrook’s LA Clippers and Kevin Durant’s Phoenix Suns in Los Angeles will tip off Saturday at 12:30 p.m. PST.
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