After feeling lower back tightness that developed during pregame warm-ups, LA Clippers star Kawhi Leonard was ruled out for Thursday night’s matchup versus the Sacramento Kings after halftime.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers said he found out Leonard would not start the game “literally five seconds” before tip. Leonard then spent half the game, a 124-103 Clippers loss, trying to get his back to loosen up. “His back just locked up,” Rivers said.
“I think he was shooting before the game and his back locked up. He was in stretching and trying to do everything he could to get on the floor, and he just couldn’t.”
Rivers said he did not know the severity of Leonard’s back injury. The Clippers play again Saturday afternoon at home versus the Minnesota Timberwolves. Later that night, Leonard will have his jersey retired by San Diego State during the Aztecs’ game against Utah State.
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Without Leonard, the Clippers were routed by Sacramento.
Paul George returned from a nine-game absence due to a strained left hamstring and missed 8 of 10 shots, finishing with eight points, four rebounds and four assists in 19 minutes.
Rivers said George and Patrick Beverley, who returned after missing three games with a sore groin, were on a minutes restriction and that it was hard for George to get a rhythm.
George, who has played in six All-Star games, was not named among the Western Conference reserves this year and will not play with Leonard in the Feb. 16 All-Star Game at Chicago.
“The fact of the matter is, I didn’t deserve to be an All-Star,” said George, who has played only 27 games so far this season while dealing with various injuries and his recovery from offseason shoulder surgeries.
“I didn’t play enough games and I wasn’t out there enough. So, honestly, it’s nice to have those three extra days. I’ll take it with a smile on my face, and I’ll root Kawhi on from whatever beach we decide to go to.”
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