The Clippers have, unsurprisingly, been among the NBA’s best teams to start the 2020-21 season, going 13-4 out of the gate to put them in a tie with the Lakers atop the Western Conference standings. Paul George’s play, in particular, has been noteworthy, as the star forward is playing All-NBA caliber basketball and has seemingly shaken off his disappointing postseason — as has the entire Clippers team. They’re aided by newcomers in Serge Ibaka, Luke Kennard, and Nic Batum, the latter of whom has looked like the best value signing in the league this offseason.
However, this is still a team driven by its two stars in George and Kawhi Leonard, who combine to average just under 40 points per game and over 10 rebounds and 10 assists per night, and both have posted 50/40/90 seasons to this point. The Clippers will begin a six-game East coast road trip on Tuesday in Atlanta to face the Hawks, but will have to do so without the services of either George or Leonard, who are both now in the league’s health and safety protocols.
Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are not flying to Atlanta with the team. Depending on the extent of NBA protocols, Leonard and/or George could potentially join the team on this road trip. https://t.co/0WUPPIfD5v
— Ohm Youngmisuk (@NotoriousOHM) January 25, 2021
As ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk notes, depending on what they’re in the protocols for — contact tracing or a positive test — one or both could rejoin the team closer to the end of their road trip. Should it be a contact tracing situation, a 7-day absence for both, pending negative tests, would allow them to return for next Tuesday’s showdown with the Brooklyn Nets. A positive test, however, requires a 10-day quarantine, which would keep them out for the entirety of the 6-game trip.
It is an unfortunate situation for the Clippers, who will turn to a short rotation to make up for the absences of their two stars, in particular Batum, Kennard, and Marcus Morris to pick up the scoring load on the wing — and Lou Williams likely being tasked with more offensively with the bench unit. It also underscores the continuing issues the league is having with postponements and players missing time, just as reports emerged that they are considering putting on an All-Star Game in March.