LA Clippers star Paul George progresses to 4-on-4 minimal contact practice with coaches

PLAYA VISTA, CA. -- Paul George participated in a 4-on-4 practice against LA Clippers assistant coaches with minimal contact Sunday, and his shooting elbow is "feeling better."

With the play-in tournament three weeks away, George took an encouraging next step in rehab and is making progress as he tries to make a return for the eighth-place Clippers. Around the All-Star break a month ago, George was still shooting left-handed while the torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow was healing.

"He's feeling better," Clippers coach Ty Lue said before practice Monday. "That is part of his rehab, having minimal contact with the coaches and trying to get his wind and just kind of see how he feels.

"To get him on the court for the first time was really good to see, got to continue to keep working and see how he is feeling going forward."

Lue said George had "no problems, no pain." The Clippers' star guard has not played since Dec. 22 and needed months to let the elbow rest and recover. The Clippers are entrenched in the eighth spot with nine games remaining and are hoping to get some reinforcements for the play-in tournament.

Norman Powell, who was limited to just three games after suffering a fracture in a bone in his left foot following a trade from Portland at the trade deadline, had the boot removed from his foot and was slated to shoot with the team Monday. Lue said Powell hasn't been cleared for contact yet.

And Kawhi Leonard continues to work his way back from a torn right ACL injury suffered in Game 4 of the second round last June against the Utah Jazz.

Lue said his preference is to see any of his injured Clippers to play at least one regular season game before playing in a postseason game. But the coach also said that if any of the injured Clippers are cleared medically to play in the postseason, they'll play.

Lue was asked whether he is keeping the door open for Leonard, George and Powell even if they don't return by the end of the regular season.

"Hell yeah I keep it open," Lue said.

Lue added: "To hit the playoffs going at 100, from zero to 100, that is pretty tough. But if the medical guys say they are cleared and they are able to do that, that is totally up to them."

The Clippers (36-37) play the seventh-place Nuggets (42-30) on Tuesday in a potential preview of a play-in game. The Clippers know they won't have the luxury of starting off 0-2 in the playoffs and coming back to win the first round in seven games like they did against Dallas last postseason.

"T-Lue [said] we can't be 0-2 this time," veteran Nic Batum said of the Clippers playing in the play-in this postseason. "We gotta be really wide awake [in the play-in]. And win one game right away. So we have to keep playing, keep getting ready, because we have so much stuff to keep working on, and if [we] got guys coming back, that's good.

"That's why we have to play [well down the stretch], to bring those guys back [to a team playing well], if they're coming back."