Paul George practices with Clippers for first time since December

Clippers guard Paul George holds the ball during a game against the San Antonio Spurs
Clippers guard Paul George, shown in a file photo, practiced with the team Thursday since injuring his shooting elbow in December.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

Paul George participated in Clippers practice Thursday for the first time since injuring his right shooting elbow in December, adding to the team’s hope that the All-Star wing could be available for the postseason next month.

The Clippers called his participation in Thursday’s practice as the next stage of George’s rehabilitation, without detailing how much of the closed practice George would take part in. George, who hasn’t played since Dec. 22, previously had been cleared in mid-March to play in practice games against coaches that exposed him to what coach Tyronn Lue called “minimal contact.”

“He hasn’t felt any pain, so that is a positive thing,” Lue said before practice.

Guard Norman Powell, who played only three games with the Clippers before fracturing a bone in a foot in mid-February, also has taken a figurative step forward by taking literal steps on the court during a workout Wednesday, Lue said.


“Nothing too serious, but he was on the court doing some things,” Lue said. “Nothing that involves contact or anything like that, but he is on the floor a little bit, doing a little shooting.”

Clippers assistant coach Jay Larrañaga has spent his life watching his father, current Miami coach Jim Larrañaga, succeed during March Madness.

Lue did not offer an update on Kawhi Leonard, but eight months have passed since the All-Star forward underwent surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in a knee, and surgeons with experience on ACL recoveries have repeatedly said that high-level athletes typically return to play between nine and 12 months post-surgery.

Adding to the speculation that Leonard might be able to join either George, Powell or both during the playoffs was Leonard’s own evidence, when he appeared to comfortably run through an intensive pregame workout earlier this month in San Francisco.

“We just got to be smart, make sure we’re protecting the player and making sure we’re doing the right thing by them,” Lue said of watching the injured players inch closer toward potential returns. “That’s first and foremost. When [the Clippers’ medical staff] says we have an opportunity, then we will. If we don’t, we don’t. Right now we just got to focus on the group that’s here and just try to continue to keep getting better and building good habits, and they’ve been doing a good job with that.”

As the Clippers (36-38), losers of four straight, are ramping up some of their injured headliners, they are also carefully monitoring the workloads of veterans — including guard Reggie Jackson and forwards Marcus Morris Sr. and Nicolas Batum — in an attempt to keep each fresh before the play-in tournament, which follows the April 10 regular-season finale.

A jury on Monday convicted a Tennessee man in the slaying of Lorenzen Wright, who played the first three seasons of his NBA career with the Clippers.

Jackson is being held to around a 32-minute limit, Morris at 25 and Batum at 19, Lue said. Jackson is averaging a career-high 31.1 minutes at age 31.

“Everybody’s coming back in here energetic,” Jackson said. “It’s good to see faces, good to see people with smiles this morning. I walked in, just to see people smiling whether they’re being loud or not you can see the energy coming back.”



When: 7:30 p.m., Friday

On the air: TV: Bally Sports SoCal, NBA TV; Radio: 570, 1330

Update: The 76ers (45-26) are 10-3 with James Harden in the lineup since and in that span are outscoring opponents by 8.5 points in the 24 minutes per game he shares with center Joel Embiid and guard Tyrese Maxey. Under former Clippers coach Doc Rivers, the 76ers are 24-11 on the road, the second-fewest road losses in the NBA this season. Clippers wing Robert Covington (right hand sprain) is questionable to play.