Clippers’ Paul George to miss at least three weeks with torn elbow ligament

Los Angeles Clippers guard Paul George (13) controls the ball during an NBA basketball game.
Clippers guard Paul George controls the ball against the Lakers on Dec. 3.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

An injury to an elbow that sidelined Paul George for two weeks in December has worsened and will now keep the Clippers’ leading scorer out even longer — just as they begin one of the most daunting stretches of their schedule.

A torn ulnar collateral ligament in George’s right elbow — his shooting arm — will lead to three to four weeks of rest, “at which point next steps will be determined,” the team said Saturday. In a best-case scenario where follow-up assessments show that the rest was effective, George would then begin a ramp-up process to return to play.

George initially sprained the ligament Dec. 6, and the team elected to rest him until he felt strong enough to return and was medically cleared to play Dec. 20 against San Antonio. Yet as early as his first basket in that game, George was seen shaking his affected arm, appearing to experience discomfort, and he felt pain again during the second game in his comeback, a victory in Sacramento on Wednesday. Imaging of the elbow taken after the Kings victory showed a tear, according to two people with knowledge of the situation not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.


As the Arena era begins, here’s a look back at the Clippers’ 10 most important moments at the venue when it was known as Staples Center.

Dec. 23, 2021

The injury is uncommon in basketball and has sidelined players an average of 20 games, according to InStreetClothes, a website that tracks NBA injuries. Among previous cases examined by the website’s analysis — from Jimmy Butler to Nicolas Batum, the Clippers forward who suffered the injury while playing in Charlotte — surgery was not needed.

The injury presses pause on a season in which George had thrived as the Clippers’ undisputed leading option while All-Star running mate Kawhi Leonard continues his own lengthy injury recovery, following knee surgery in June. It also creates additional pathways for the team’s younger wings to develop, with rookies Keon Johnson and Brandon Boston Jr. as well as guards Luke Kennard and Terance Mann expected to shoulder additional responsibilities. For a franchise with limited opportunities in the upcoming draft because of past trades, there is no incentive to use George’s injury as a reason to punt on the season; instead, the expectation is that the Clippers’ pursuit of a playoff berth hasn’t changed.

Upon his return last week, George called his two-week rehab from his initial sprain “honestly a blessing,” because it thrust teammates into larger, or different, roles — experience that will become much more important amid his longer-term absence.

“They got to jell and play and find themselves,” George said last week. “I thought a lot of them looked aggressive with the extended minutes and extended roles. Nothing should change when I come back. I know when I play with them on the floor, they should know how to play and still be themselves. I want them to be aggressive, I want them to attack, have the same mentality if I’m in or out. We’re out there to win, and that’s what it’s gonna take. Everybody’s gotta be themselves for us to win.”

Still, the injury to their leading scorer is another hurdle for the Clippers (17-15) to overcome in a season already featuring plenty of attrition. Fourteen of their next 20 games are on the road. The Clippers are 5-7 on the road this season and own the league’s 13th-best net rating away from home, where they have been outscored by nearly 1 point per 100 possessions.

Here are the top 10 Staples Center moments for the Lakers, Clippers, Sparks and Kings ahead of the Arena name change.

Dec. 25, 2021

Backup center Isaiah Hartenstein (ankle), Jackson (health and safety protocols) and starting forward Marcus Morris Sr. (health and safety protocols) will miss Sunday’s game against Denver (15-16) at Arena. Leonard (knee) and rookie Jason Preston (foot) have yet to debut amid longer-term injury recoveries. Kennard missed Wednesday’s victory in Sacramento because of a hip injury but is available to play Sunday.


Following a run to last season’s Western Conference finals against Phoenix that left George “at peace” and confident in his play while saying he had quieted critics, George was in the discussion for most valuable player one-quarter of the way through the schedule earlier this month.

“I think he’s playing at the best level and he’s in the best mindset that he’s been in,” said Jackson, one of George’s closest friends, in November.

George has averaged 24.7 points, his highest per-game average in three seasons, 7.1 rebounds and 5.5 assists this season but his shooting numbers were uncharacteristically low for a historically steady shooter and, in hindsight, offered a glimpse into an arm that was bothering George. A career 38% three-point shooter, George had made just 32% of his shots from deep.



When: 6 p.m., Sunday

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Update: Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, the league’s reigning MVP, is again the engine that makes everything happen for Denver, keeping them afloat in the West despite a rash of attrition this season. Jokic leads Denver in scoring (25.9 points), plus-minus rating (plus-7.4), free-throw attempts (5.0), rebounds (13.5), assists (7.2) and is tied for the lead in steals (1.3) and blocks (0.7). Denver is 7-10 on the road this season, outscored by 3.1 points per 100 possessions away from home, the NBA’s 19th-best rate.