The Clippers welcomed back one of the long-lost starters Tuesday, as Patrick Beverley forced his return from hand operation after missing 12 games.
On the other hand, the return of Serge Ibaka remains elusive. Ibaka has been out the past 26 games, initially due to lower back tightness, and Ty Lue said there’s still no timeline for if the former starting center could be back in the lineup. Lue could not even specify just what harm Ibaka is ongoing to take care of.
“Do not have a potential return date,” Lue said prior to that the Raptors match . “I know Serge was doing all in his power the previous five, six, seven hours a day of just rehabbing, trying to get himself back. And watching him on the ground the last few times playing 4-on-4, 5-on-5, only hoping to get used to getting hit again, getting banged, the physicality of the match, that’s gonna take some time, especially when you come off the situation that he’s going through at the moment. And that is to be expected, but for him to stand out there on the ground is a positive for us now. We do not have a return date as of right now.”
What will be interesting to see when Ibaka does return is exactly what his role from the rotation is. Beverley came off the bench for the first time this season in his first game back. The point guard did possess a minutes restriction, but Lue also indicated that there’s a path to Reggie Jackson beginning.
“I go on matchups and just feel for the match,” Lue said postgame. “If it is matchup-driven, that is kind of how I coach in the playoffs. We don’t understand who we are going to play first round but only working on different stuff so men are comfortable playing on the floor with various combinations…. So we are just trying to figure it out today, what’s ideal for us moving forward.”
In that vein, although Ibaka was the starter before his accident, it sounds like the Clippers would be amenable to maintaining Ivica Zubac in the first five. At a certain point, the team has to utilize lineups that have expertise together, and Zubac has been there every single game.
Of course, this isn’t even a question right now with Ibaka’s injury timeline still nebulous.