You’d have forgiven the Clippers for treating this like a lost season. The hits started last July, when Kawhi Leonard underwent surgery to repair a torn right ACL that is “probably” going to keep him out for the entirety of the 2021-22 NBA season, then another came on Christmas, when we learned that Paul George had torn the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, which might keep him out for the rest of the season. Without the pair of All-NBA two-way destroyers that owner Steve Ballmer moved heaven, earth, five first-round picks, two pick swaps, Danilo Gallinari, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to get—and then paid a combined $352.5 million to keep—it seemed like there was little reason to believe the Clips could stay competitive in what promised to be a brutal Western Conference.
But then the West—outside the top three, anyway—wound up being a lot less brutal than anticipated and premier problem-solving head coach Ty Lue wound up turning the Clippers’ side dishes into a pretty tasty meal. L.A. has gone 10-12 since George went down, and sits at 27-27 after a thrilling last-second victory over the rival Lakers on Thursday night—in eighth place in the West, just three games out of fifth. That positioning made the Clippers a team of interest approaching next Thursday’s trade deadline: Would team president Lawrence Frank and his brain trust try to seize the opportunity to improve the roster for the stretch run? Or would they take a longer view, looking to strengthen the team for next season, when a healthy Kawhi and PG will re-enter the fray?
We learned Friday that the Clippers didn’t view the question as an either/or proposition. By pulling off a deal with the Trail Blazers to import swingmen Norman Powell and Robert Covington, the Clips answered yes to both.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that L.A. has agreed to trade Eric Bledsoe, Justise Winslow, rookie Keon Johnson, and the Pistons’ 2025 second-round draft pick to Portland in exchange for Powell and Covington, a pair of veteran wings who bolster the Clippers’ perimeter corps. The 28-year-old Powell is averaging a…