Clippers stars still coping with loss ahead of meeting with Kings
The NBA was hit hard Sunday by the news of the sudden passing of Kobe Bryant, and it's been a slow recovery. From intentional clock violations to number changes, teams are honoring the former Lakers star however possible.
The L.A. Clippers have participated in both. Landry Shamet dribbled out the shot clock in Orlando to open the game, which the Clippers won, and Moe Harkless has since changed his number from 8 to 11 out of respect for Bryant.
The team's stars — namely Paul George and Kawhi Leonard — were close with Bryant, and are understandably struggling to find normalcy once again.
"It's sad every day," Leonard said during Wednesday's practice. "You know, you kind of feel like life isn't real once you start seeing these little monuments or the pictures that people are putting up with his face and the year he was born and the year he died.
"It doesn't seem real. It just seems like you're in a movie or something. And you know, you just want to wake up. So it's still surreal to me. It's not all come together."
George has similar feelings.
"You would think it would get easier but you always find one thing, especially being on Instagram, being on social media," George said. "You feel like you've gotten over it, there's one more thing that pops up and you just break down again.
"I have two little girls and I don't have no sons, I have all girls in my family. I just feel for them, I put it into my kids' perspectives, not being there for them. It just touches and hits me at all angles from idolizing him as a kid to developing friendship and brotherhood to now having conversations with him this summer at his Mamba Academy and talking about fatherhood, it's just some s*** you can't get over."
Bryant's passing led to the postponing of Tuesday's game between the Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers out of respect for his former franchise. The time off gave both teams additional time to grieve, and the extra rest should benefit them as well.
The Clippers will be the first of the two to return to the floor, as they're set to host the Sacramento Kings at STAPLES Center this Thursday at 7:30 p.m. L.A. is currently listed as an 11.5-point favorite.
L.A. could enter the game with a fully healthy roster, which hasn't happened since Christmas Day. George and Patrick Beverley are both listed as "probable" to return after missing nine- and three-straight games, respectively.
The Clippers have gone 7-2 without George and 2-1 without Beverley against a fairly light schedule. The two losses, which came to the Denver Nuggets and Atlanta Hawks, were tightly-contested.
The Kings, meanwhile, have won four of their last 10. Health has been an issue there as well — Marvin Bagley III has missed the last three contests with a knee injury, and Richaun Holmes has been out for three weeks.
L.A. handled the Kings when they last met on New Year's Eve, riding a 24-point effort from Leonard. Holmes was Sacramento's best player, logging 22 points and 10 rebounds in 31 minutes. It's also worth noting that Beverley was absent from the lineup.
Assuming the Clippers do field a full roster, this should be a relatively easy win. Emotions will be high, but this team is playing its best basketball of the season right now — and after ending a lengthy road trip in Orlando, they'll be eager to play in front of their home crowd.