The Los Angeles Clippers could see yet another change to their lineup for Tuesday night’s matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers. Veteran point guard Patrick Beverley, sidelined for L.A.’s last 12 games, has been upgraded to questionable on the team’s latest injury report.
While there’s no definitive word on whether Beverley will actually play against Portland, the change in status is surely a step in the right direction for the three-time All-Defensive selection.
Beverley has been out since March 11, after he left L.A.’s game against Golden State with soreness in his right knee. It was the second time this season the eight-year veteran has missed significant time with knee soreness, the first coming around the end of January which put him on the shelf for eight games.
On the season, the eight-year veteran out of Arkansas is averaging 8.3 points on 44.2% shooting (42% from three), with 2.1 assists and 3.7 rebounds.
Times They Are A-Changin’
A lot has changed for the Clippers since Beverley, who is well-known for annoying the snot out of opponents, last saw the floor. Crucially, the Clippers have gone 8-4 since then and moved past the Lakers for third place in the Western Conference standings. But it’s the team’s changes in personnel that represent the biggest difference—and something that could directly impact Beverley’s minutes.
On March 25, the Clippers traded sixth man aficionado and fan-favorite Lou Williams (along with two second-round picks) to the Atlanta Hawks for none other than Rajon Rondo.
Despite showing his age at times, Williams had played pretty well for the Clippers this season, averaging 12.1 points and 3.4 assists. But neither he nor Reggie Jackson could be considered traditional point guards and their defense has always been a problem.
So with Beverley out for the second time, the Clippers were keen to find a distributor and playmaker at the trade deadline who could help on defense and take some busy work (eg ballhandling) off the plates of stars Kahwi Leonard and Paul George.
The Clippers are hoping that Rondo, who was not exactly having a banner year in Atlanta (3.9 points, 3.5 assists) but has always been revered for his basketball IQ and knack for upping his game in the playoffs, can fit that bill. The 15-year veteran saw his first Clipper minutes last Sunday in a 104-86 romp over the Lakers, and though he showed some definite rust, was spoken of in glowing terms after the game by coach Ty Lue and several teammates. Rondo will continue to come off the bench as long as Beverley and Jackson are available, but he is sure to eat into both of their minutes.
Mann and Kennard Demand More Minutes
Beverley’s latest absence has also paralleled the emergence of Terance Mann. The second-year guard out of Florida State has opened eyes with his ability to get to the rim and his energy and rebounding on defense. Since Beverley went out, Mann’s become an integral part of the second unit, averaging 11.3 points on 51.4% shooting and 6.0 rebounds, and has often been on the floor for fourth-quarter crunch-time minutes.
Guard Luke Kennard could also spell more pine time for Beverley. Kennard, who had fallen off Lue’s rotation radar beginning in mid-February, has seemingly found his way back into the head coach’s heart, averaging 10.8 points on 53.6% shooting in the Clippers’ last nine games.
Kennard has always been an issue on the defensive end, so he will rarely get the nod over Beverley in that regard. But when the Clippers need to put up points, or their opponents go big, Kennard and Mann could certainly be viewed as more viable options than Beverley. Mann and Kennard were big factors in L.A.’s thrilling 22-point comeback win versus Atlanta on March 22.
Not to mention, Jackson has played well since Beverley went on his injury sabbatical. Jackson is shooting 44.5% from the field and 43.1% from three—far above his career averages—and contributing 11.8 points since Beverley went out.
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