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Clippers weigh trade options but some want to stand pat

Clippers coach Doc Rivers congratulates forward Paul George after he made a three-point shot against the Rockets during a game earlier this season.
Coach Doc Rivers and forward Paul George are planning to continue their playoff push with the roster currently in place.
(Harry How / Getty Images)

Two days 12 hours and 25 minutes remained Monday night before the NBA’s trade deadline when Clippers forward Paul George sat down for a postgame interview in Staples Center.

George’s nose, hit violently by an inadvertent elbow from San Antonio’s DeMar DeRozan during the Clippers’ 108-105 victory, bled so much initially that he compared it to “Niagara Falls, just flowing.” It was not broken, George reported, which was good news for a team that has been fully healthy for only three of its 50 games.

Also intact at the moment: the Clippers’ roster.

The Clippers have been active in trade discussions centered around centers and lengthy wings who can guard and score but as of Tuesday they had not amounted to something close to a deal. The league’s trade deadline is Thursday at noon PST.

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“We love our team right now, we really do,” coach Doc Rivers said Monday. “And so that’s what I’m looking at right now, is how to get the team we have on the floor right now better.”

The Clippers have held interest in veteran forward Andre Iguodala since last summer, when Golden State traded him to Memphis and it became clear he hoped to be moved again to a championship contender. They pursued forward Marcus Morris as a free agent last offseason and could go after him again after the New York Knicks have reportedly made him available. Minnesota’s Robert Covington is an ideal option for adding three-point shooting and defense but is coveted by several teams.

The Clippers are among a handful of teams monitoring Darren Collison, the point guard and Southern California native who retired unexpectedly in June after 10 seasons but is now considering a return as a free agent.

At center, the Clippers must decide whether starter Ivica Zubac, a 22-year-old many within the organization are bullish on, can be impactful during the postseason one season after playing limited minutes late in a first-round playoff series against Golden State, or whether another option could help.

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Zubac’s backup, Montrezl Harrell, is Rivers’ preferred option in the fourth quarter and, along with guards Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams, is part of the team’s emotional backbone. He also will be a free agent in the summer and is expected to double his salary from the $6 million he is paid. Clippers executives must weigh whether it makes sense to keep the 6-foot-7 center who is vital to the league’s highest-scoring bench even if his summer asking price is too high, or deal him now to get something of value in return.

Cleveland center Tristan Thompson has reportedly pushed to be traded but isn’t a focus of the Clippers, according to a person with knowledge of the team’s thinking.

When Clippers coach Doc Rivers watches Kawhi Leonard, he sees hallmarks of other prolific scorers he has coached.

Assets that could be used in trades include forward Maurice Harkless, in part because his expiring $11-million salary could help the Clippers match salaries in a deal for a high-paid player. A 2020 first-round draft pick also is at the team’s disposal.

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The Clippers have kept quiet franchise-altering deals close to the deadline each of the last two seasons but another move of such magnitude isn’t expected this week. Trading leading scorers Blake Griffin in January 2018 and Tobias Harris last February was done with the long view in mind as the team pursued a strategy of rebuilding without tanking. They also assembled a war chest of draft picks and tradeable players in pursuit of adding two superstars. The plan came to fruition in July by acquiring George in a trade with Oklahoma City, a deal that sealed Kawhi Leonard’s free-agency signing.

Any move taken now will be judged by whether it will help the team in the postseason.

The Clippers are 35-15, the second-best record in the Western Conference and the franchise’s best through 50 games, and 16-4 when both Leonard and George play.

“We hope this is the roster, going down the stretch, that we keep,” George said. “I enjoy every player on this team, I enjoy this locker room and I’m happy with who’s in our locker room.”

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UP NEXT

VS. MIAMI

Where: Staples Center

When: 7 p.m.

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On the air: TV: Prime Ticket, ESPN; Radio: 570

Update: Miami is coming off a 29-point home victory over Philadelphia in which guard Jimmy Butler scored 38 points. Butler and Heat center Bam Adebayo were selected to the Eastern Conference All-Star team as reserves. Miami has played a zone 13% of its time, the most in the NBA, according to Synergy Sports.


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