No Kawhi Leonard Sunday, Monday; Clippers still adjusting to new reality – NBC Sports

LOS ANGELES — Kawhi Leonard has played in two NBA games this season.
He will not add to that total Sunday against Zion Williamson and the Pelicans or Monday against the Rockets. Zion, however, will play for the Pelicans.
Leonard has been out since Oct. 23 with what is officially called “right knee injury management” but is mostly some stiffness in the knee after he played an average of 21 minutes across two of the first three games of the NBA season.
“It’s going to be a game-to-game thing right now, we know he’s out tomorrow (Monday, vs. Houston)…” Clippers coach Tyronne Lue said before Sunday’s game. “He’s feeling better. You know, we just continue to rehab, try to get rid of this stiffness he has going on in that knee. But he is feeling better, so that’s a great sign.”
So far this season Paul George and John Wall have each missed one game and Marcus Morris has missed two.
The result is a 2-3 Clippers team to start the season, although talk to them and the tone is the season more a marathon than a sprint – it’s about guys being healthy and able to play starting in April and the playoffs, not October. Lue said players going in and out of the lineup, combined with the team trying to fit Leonard and George back in, has led to a sluggish offense that is 29th in the NBA. The sixth-ranked defense has been unable to cover that up and get wins. Yet.
Lue made one tweak to the starting lineup, saying Terance Mann would start in Leonard’s spot and Norman Powell will come off the bench, which is more his traditional role.
The Clippers had guys in and out of the lineup a lot last season as well, but Lue said there is not a lot they can take away from that.
“I think it’s a little different time than it was last year because last year we knew PG and Kawhi would be out for an extended period of time, and we had to change our offense and how we wanted to play,” Lue said. “We had to change that up with Kawhi being available certain games with PG being able to play it’s a little different when you build your offense around your two main guys.
“Just, you know, getting healthy, I think, it’s gonna take us some time, a couple of months to, you know, get up to speed offensively and what we want to do and the minute restrictions.”
A couple of months. It’s a marathon.
The Clippers are supposed to have the depth to survive stars missing games and still win, still be a top-six playoff team. They haven’t looked like it so far, with the isolation-heavy basketball of Leonard and George not meshing smoothly with the pass-happy style of the Clippers from last season. Blending them is what Lue has to figure out sooner rather than later.
Otherwise they will be so far back in the marathon they won’t be able to catch up.
PARIS — Victor Wembanyama was sitting courtside, the 19-year-old French phenom and presumed No. 1 NBA draft pick watching some of the players he’ll go up against next season.

🇫🇷 @vicw_32 in the building for #NBAParis! pic.twitter.com/PkKxp801xA
— NBA (@NBA) January 19, 2023

And a guy with a French surname put on quite a show.
Zach LaVine – who said his great-grandfather was French – scored 30 points and the Chicago Bulls never trailed in a 126-108 win over the Detroit Pistons at the NBA Paris Game on Thursday.
“Maybe the air up here was good for me,” LaVine said.
DeMar DeRozan added 26 points for the Bulls, and Nikola Vucevic finished with 16 points, 15 rebounds and six assists.
DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine showed out for the W in Paris!
DeRozan: 26 PTS, 9 REB, 5 AST
LaVine: 30 PTS, 5 REB, 4 AST#NBAParis 🇫🇷 pic.twitter.com/wjVQNm8E7w
— NBA (@NBA) January 19, 2023

Bojan Bogdanovic led the Pistons with 25 points. Killian Hayes, the only French player on either roster, scored four points for Detroit on 2-of-13 shooting, but had a game-high eight assists.
Hamidou Diallo had 17 points on 7-for-8 shooting for Detroit, while Saddiq Bey and Jaden Ivey each scored 16 for the Pistons.
“It was a bit frustrating to not be the winners tonight,” Hayes said.
It was the capper to several days of celebrating the NBA in France, after both teams took part in clinics, touristy events like visits to the Eiffel Tower, some upscale dinners and even a private show for the Pistons at the Paris Opera House.
And while the game counted – Chicago (21-24) stayed in 10th in the Eastern Conference and what would be the last play-in spot with the win, while Detroit fell to 12-36, the second-worst mark in the NBA – it also was no mundane middle-of-the-season regular-season matchup.
The celebrity list included NBA greats like Magic Johnson, Richard Hamilton, Ben Wallace and Tony Parker; a Bulls legend and native French son in Joakim Noah; the rising star that everybody can’t stop talking about in Wembanyama; WNBA players like Gabby Williams; even Grammy winners and Formula 1 drivers.
“I don’t want to quite compare this to All-Star,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said, “but it’s the closest thing to a European All-Star Game that we have.”
It was also a celebration of the continued strength of the international footprint on today’s NBA game. When the Bulls and Michael Jordan – along with B.J. Armstrong, then a Bulls guard, now an NBA agent who was at the game Thursday – played in Paris during the preseason in 1997, about 1 of every 14 NBA players was born outside the U.S.
Now, that’s about 1 in 4.
“It is special because we’re representing not only Detroit, but the NBA,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “And we’re trying to put the brand in a good place – in a place where basketball is taking off.”
Wembanyama and his family made their way to courtside seats about 15 minutes before tip-off, immediately attracting a huge crowd. When the camera found him and he was shown to the French fans on the big in-arena screens in the second quarter, he clapped and smiled, as did his mother seated one row back over his right shoulder – as the crowd positively roared in delight.
Both teams are flying home Friday.
“It’s great for people here in Paris to get an up-close look at the NBA,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said. “It makes you realize that the sport is followed so closely around the world. It was amazing. The place was sold out.”
The Knicks are eight points per 100 possessions better when Mitchell Robinson is on the court at center this season.
Which is trouble because he will be out at least three weeks — and likely longer — following thumb surgery he underwent on Thursday, the Knicks announced.
Mitchell Robinson underwent successful surgery today to repair his fractured right thumb at the Hospital for Special Surgery. He will be re-evaluated in three weeks.
— NY_KnicksPR (@NY_KnicksPR) January 19, 2023

Mitchell left the Knicks’ loss to the Wizards on Wednesday in the first half with what the team described at the time as a sprained thumb. It’s clearly more than that, although without details on where the fracture occurred it’s difficult to predict a return timeline.
Mitchell is averaging 7.2 points and 8.9 rebounds a game for New York, but his biggest impact is on the defensive end where he is an anchor for the team blocking 1.8 shots a game. Expect Tom Thibodeau to lean heavily on Isaiah Hartenstein at center and use more small-ball lineups. For a Knicks team in a fight with the Heat and Pacers (among others) for the sixth seed and avoiding the play-in the next three weeks could be huge.
Kevin Durant is missing time because Jimmy Butler fell into his knee, and that — combined with some huge games from Giannis Antetokounmpo — appears to have altered at least some fans’ thinking.
Antetokounmpo has moved just past Durant to be the leading vote getter in the East in the final update on fan voting before the starters are announced next week. Here are the latest results.
LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo lead their respective conferences in the third fan returns of #NBAAllStar Voting presented by AT&T.
Fans account for 50% of the vote to decide All-Star starters. NBA players and a media panel account for 25% each. pic.twitter.com/nqNZqkeVJw
— NBA Communications (@NBAPR) January 19, 2023

As of this vote, LeBron James and Antetokounmpo would be the captains and pick their team’s starters from a pool of Durant, Jayson Tatum, Nikola Jokic, Anthony Davis, Kyrie Irving, Donovan Mitchell, Stephen Curry and Luka Doncic.
It is possible Durant will retake the East lead from Antetokounmpo in the final days of fan voting, but it’s unlikely he will make up a little more than 132,000 votes when he is not playing. It’s the same situation for the tightly-contested third frontcourt starting spot in the East, where Embiid has fallen more than 200,000 votes behind Tatum and that’s a lot to make up in a couple of days.
There is one tight race in the West, where Zion is just 77,439 behind the Lakers’ Davis for the final starting slot in the fan vote. With both players being out (and having missed considerable time this season) the player and media votes could move the needle on this starting spot.
Fan All-Star voting continues at the NBA app and NBA.com through Jan. 21 (there is no voting via social media this year). All fan votes will count triple on Jan. 20.
As in recent years, the fan vote will count for 50% of the total for each player, with votes from NBA players counting for 25%, and votes from a panel of NBA media making up the other 25%. Fans, media and players vote for the starters — two guards, three frontcourt players in each conference — but the reserves for each team are chosen by a vote of the NBA coaches (or, more accurately, the NBA assistant coaches who couldn’t dodge the job when it was handed down the ladder).
The NBA All-Star Game occurs on Feb. 19 in Salt Lake City. Events from the weekend will be broadcast on TNT.
John Collins has three guaranteed seasons at a total of $75.8 million owed him over the three seasons after this one (the final year of that is a player option).
That figure has slowed the Collins trade market as other teams are hesitant to take on those future years, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said on the network’s NBA Countdown show Wednesday (hat tip Hoopsrumors.com).
“John Collins has been at the center of their trade talks… Starting next year, still owed another $25 million a year, essentially $75 million over the next three years. I think that’s been a hindrance in the trade market. There are some teams, such as Utah, that would like a draft pick with Collins to offset that money… Landry Fields, the new general manager in Atlanta, he does not see John Collins as a money dump.”
Utah’s Danny Ainge is pushing a hard deal that includes him getting more draft picks? Shocking.
Collins is a productive player, averaging 13.3 points and 7.8 rebounds a game this season, and one who might benefit from a change of scenery. He could help playoff teams. Collins is seen around the league as a quality player who is overpaid relative to his production, but he’s not a guy the Hawks — who are trying to build a contender around Trae Young — can afford to just salary dump.
It’s still likely Fields and the Hawks trade Collins at the deadline, very possibly to Utah (where he is an odd fit next to Lauri Markkanen), and this is all just public negotiations to settle on a price before the Feb. 9 trade deadline.

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