The Western Conference is as wide open as it has ever been and the Los Angeles Clippers have not yet given up trying to make something of the season.
Together, guys like Reggie Jackson, Serge Ibaka, and Marcus Morris have kept the team afloat in hopes that the eventual return of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George will give them a chance to make a run in the playoffs.
The problem is, nobody knows when PG or Kawhi will return or if it will be this season. In a chat with the media, team president Lawrence Frank provided the latest update on the situation with George.
"You don't treat the MRI, you treat the player," Frank said. "So when the MRI comes in, it's not a 'boom' that all of a sudden is a 'Eureka' moment for what we do. I think it's just part of the process.
"I think it's you see how Paul is responding. He's feeling better each and every day. The MRI is another kind of benchmark. ... I think the doctors put it all together and that's how they come to what the next steps are. My expectation is regardless of what the MRI says, it's just part of it. That's not going to be the ultimate decision-maker in what happens."
Paul has been out since Dec. 22 after suffering a torn ligament in his right elbow. Early on there was a strong belief that he would return at some point later in the season, but that possibility is looking less likely with each passing week.
Meanwhile, for Kawhi, things are even more mysterious. With little information coming out on how his rehab is going, few expect him to return before the Fall.
"I think the best answer is we don't know," Frank said. "He grinds every single day. He works. His focus is on his rehab. ... No one knows. He doesn't know. But all you can do is, just every day, continue to control what you can control and see how he responds."
Despite missing their two best players, the Clippers have kept themselves in the playoff picture this season. After Friday night's victory over the Lakers, the team is 8th in the Conference with a 27-27 record overall.
It has been an admirable show of strength by the Clippers, but they don't stand much of a chance to compete in the spring and summer with Kawhi and PG on the bench.