Wednesday’s news is … that there’s no news.
The Clippers again listed Serge Ibaka as out on their injury report ahead of Thursday’s game in Charlotte, the third-to-last game of the regular season.
If the 31-year-old center is going to get some run before the postseason, time is running out for him to do it.
He has, however, joined his teammates on the four-game road trip – which ends with stops in Houston and Oklahoma City – for the first time since he was sidelined with what’s been characterized as lower back tightness in mid-March.
Before Tuesday’s game, Coach Tyronn Lue expressed optimism that, after missing 29 consecutive games, Ibaka would see action sometime before the playoffs commence.
Before the injury, Ibaka was averaging 10.9 points and 6.7 rebounds while shooting 50.7% from the floor in his first 39 games with the team, all of which he started.
That won’t be the case when he returns, Lue said, noting that Ivica Zubac has planted himself in the first five – which Zubac, ever the diplomat, claimed isn’t something he’s all that concerned about.
“I found out about (remaining the starter) a while ago, but it doesn’t change anything really for me,” said Zubac, who finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds in Tuesday’s 115-96 victory, his 13th double-double of the season.
“I go out there, whether I’m starting or not, I go out there and try to play the hardest, try to help the team win, and if they want me to do that from the start of the game or from the bench, it’s not really important to me,” Zubac continued. “But while I’m out there, I’m gonna do everything in my power to help the team win.”
Like the rest of the Clippers, Zubac said he’s eagerly awaiting Ibaka’s return.
“He’s gonna help us,” Zubac said of the 12th-year veteran, who won an NBA title alongside Kawhi Leonard in Toronto. “Serge is a great player who does a lot of stuff on the court that’ll help the team win. And it’s all about the roles and the matchups, so it’s only gonna help the team.”
SCRUBB CHECKS IN
Jay Scrubb played his first four minutes of NBA basketball on Tuesday in Tampa, following months of rehab following surgery to insert a screw in his right foot.
The 20-year-old guard from Louisville subbed in for Nicolas Batum with 4:09 to play and the Clippers comfortably ahead, 104-88 – and clearly was eager to go. Scrubb attacked twice on driving layup attempts, both of which rerouted by the Raptors’ bigs, first Khem Birch and then Freddie Gillespie, who had three blocked shots Tuesday.
“Felt good to be back out there,” Scrubb tweeted after the game. “It’s been a long time but great team win on to the next.”
Clippers teammate Terance Mann said he was happy for Scrubb, last year’s National Junior College Athletic Association Player of the Year in 2020 became the first junior college player drafted since Atlanta selected Donta Smith in the second round in 2004.
“Jay’s been working real hard, out there every day, getting shots up, preparing himself for when he gets out there on the court – and tonight he got his first shot. I’m sure he’s proud and he’s happy,” said Mann, who made his NBA debut on Oct. 24, 2019 but didn’t take his first official shot until four games later, when he went 2 for 3 in a loss to Utah.
“He was out for a while,” Mann said. “I know he took it hard at first, but he locked in, took rehab very seriously, he’s gonna be a great player.”
The Clippers signed him to a two-way deal after they’d traded the 57th overall pick to Brooklyn on draft night to acquire Scrubb, who the Nets drafted with the 55th pick. In his time at John A. Logan College, he averaged 21.0 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.3 steals per game and shot 50.1% from the field and 39.5% from 3-point range.
Clippers forward Marcus Morris Sr. sees the potential, tweeting out a warning of sorts along with the team’s video of Scrubb getting set to check in: “Watch when he get comfortable,” Morris wrote, “#problem.”
— Marcus Morris (@MookMorris2) May 12, 2021
PRO BASKETBALL FAMILY
Mann expects he won’t be fielding as much sage postgame advice – such as, say, “Don’t get fat and happy!” – from his mother, Daynia La-Force going forward.
But that’s OK, he said, because she’ll be busy with her own dream job.
On Tuesday, the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream announced that they hired La-Force – a former collegiate standout at Georgetown – as an assistant coach. Her 23 years of coaching experience include her most recent five-year tenure at Rhode Island, and before that, time at Northeastern and New Haven.
“Young girls have dreams of playing in the WNBA, and I had dreams of coaching in the WNBA,” La-Force said in a news release issued by the team.
Or as her son put it: “Me and her both pros now, so it’s pretty cool.”
Atlanta opens its season on Friday, when it will host the Connecticut Sun at 4:30 p.m. – a half-hour after the Clippers tip-off in Charlotte.
“It’s definitely gonna change,” Mann said. “She was able to watch every game, able to give me some constructive criticism after every game, so now she’s gonna be busy all summer, throughout our playoff run. So yeah, it’s definitely gonna change, she won’t be able to get to every game, but she’ll still lock in and do what she can.”
CLIPPERS (46-23) at HORNETS (33-36)
When: Thursday, 4 p.m.
Where: Spectrum Center, Charlotte
TV: Bally Sports SoCal
Great opportunity! Very exciting time to enter the W! https://t.co/NNXB8hs5s7
— Terance Mann (@terance_mann) May 12, 2021
Source: Orange County Register