Life has been tough for the Los Angeles Clippers since they returned from the All-Star break. Thursday’s 115-91 blowout loss to the Stephen Curry-less Golden State Warriors marked LA’s fourth consecutive defeat since the mid-season hiatus. They are in action again on Friday against the red-hot Sacramento Kings, and unfortunately for the Clippers, they will need to try and get out of their current slump without Kawhi Leonard in the picture.
Destroying their chances to make the playoffs is going to be a little harder for him to pull off this time because the Clippers are a significantly better team than the Lakers. They have beaten the Lakers 13 of the last 15 times they played each other, and as of Sunday night they are in fourth place in the 15-team Western Conference while the Lakers are in 12th place.
Still, as far as him joining the Clippers goes, we’ve seen this movie before and we know the inevitable, sad ending.
Clippers fans better get their double-ply handkerchiefs ready. They’re gonna need ‘em.
The story has a great premise – wayward hero comes home to save the day. Westbrook played prep ball at Leuzinger High School in Lawndale, and had two great years at UCLA before being drafted 4th overall and becoming an immediate star with the Oklahoma City Thunder and the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in 2017.
But that MVP season was more than half a decade ago, and a lot has changed in the intervening six years.
The Clippers are now his fifth team in the last five years – check that, make it his sixth team, if you count the Utah Jazz, who got him in a trade with the Lakers last week but were smart enough to never let him put on a Jazz uniform before buying out his contract and making him an unrestricted free agent, free to sign with any team other than the Lakers.
Naturally, he immediately signed up with the Clippers, whose coach, Ty Lue, issued the mantra we’re sure to hear the rest of this season: “Let Russ be Russ.”
This latest update puts the Clippers down three starters, including their best player, as well as their sixth man for this game vs. Sacramento. Fresh off a bad loss to the shorthanded Golden State Warriors, the Clippers desperately need a bounce back effort. The Kings are a great team, and have great home court advantage, so the Clippers stealing a win would go a long way towards getting them back on track.
Kawhi Leonard injury status vs. Kings
After playing 31 minutes in Thursday’s loss to the Warriors, the five-time All-Star will be given the night off on Friday. The Clippers have already ruled out Kawhi Leonard as part of their management plan on his right knee injury, per Tomer Azarly of ClutchPoints. This isn’t a complete surprise considering how playing in back-to-back games has long been an issue for Leonard.
Kawhi will now join Marcus Morris Sr. and Norman Powell on the sidelines, while starting center Ivica Zubac is also questionable to play due to a sore right calf.
As for the Kings, De’Aaron Fox was initially listed as questionable to play with a sore left wrist, but he has since been upgraded to available. Sacramento, who currently occupies the third spot in the West, are winners of their last four, and they intend to make it five straight against LA on Friday.
Sabonis responded with a layup on the other end, and George made a layup with 33.1 seconds left to take the lead back.
De’Aaron Fox added 33 points for Sacramento for his eighth consecutive 30-point game. Harrison Barnes had 20 points and Kevin Huerter scored 18.
“It’s great,” Fox said about the season. “It’s a great feeling. It’s great because it’s my first time. This is something we want to make annual. We want to be contending for a title. …it’s great for the city and organization. We still want bigger things for ourselves.”
Russell Westbrook scored 28 points for Los Angeles, and Eric Gordon had 21. The Clippers have lost five straight.
“I thought we did a good job,” Clippers coach Ty Lue said about the offense in the fourth quarter. “Overall, just trying to get the ball in (Paul George’s) hands.”
The best point guards realize that their real job is to make their teammates better, to set them up in spots where they can succeed. Westbrook is not that type of player and never has been. For most of his career, he has used his otherworldly athleticism and relentless energy to set himself up for crazy outside shots or bull-rushes to the basket where he can leap over, around and through the opposing defense.
In OKC, he drove fellow superstar Kevin Durant so crazy with his style of play that Durant got the hell out of Dodge as soon as he could. In Houston he couldn’t co-exist with superstar James Harden, and in Washington he couldn’t co-exist with semi-superstar Bradley Beal.
And of course we’ve all witnessed his last two years with the Lakers, where he couldn’t co-exist with superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis to the point that LeBron insisted he be shipped out of town last week no matter what the cost in future draft picks it took to get a team like the Jazz to take him off their hands.
And this season he got into a locker room scuffle with Coach Darvin Ham two nights before he was traded to the Jazz in a deal that cost the Lakers their precious 2027 first round draft pick. All season long the Lakers had said they wouldn’t part with that draft pick for anything less than a superstar like Kyrie Irving. But Westbrook made himself so radioactive that the Lakers threw the pick into the deal just to convince the Jazz to take him off their hands.
That’s how badly LeBron, Coach Ham and the front office wanted Westbrook gone.
And the Clippers management team – owner Steve “Moneybags” Ballmer, President Lawrence Frank and Coach Lue – had a front row seat to all the craziness going on with their co-tenants and still signed him.
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