Clippers backup center Mason Plumlee sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee during Monday’s loss at New York and will return to Los Angeles to have the injury reevaluated, according to a person with knowledge of the plans but not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
Plumlee suffered the injury in a 111-97 loss to the Knicks when New York’s Julius Randle ran into Plumlee while chasing a loose ball. Plumlee could not put weight on the leg and was carried to the locker room by two Clippers staff members. On Thursday, while the team travels to Dallas to close a three-game trip, Plumlee will return to Los Angeles.
The Clippers (3-3) have two available roster spots, and league rules require the team to fill one of them by next Wednesday. They are expected to consider outside options. Available free-agent centers include veterans Khem Birch and Nerlens Noel.
The team wants to first evaluate the options already on its roster. That could mean more audition time against Brooklyn and Dallas for second-year big man Moussa Diabate — the player the Clippers initially used to fill Plumlee’s absence against the Knicks — or taking a look at smaller lineups with either P.J. Tucker or rookie Kobe Brown at center.
Tucker has played small-ball center capably earlier in his career. Brown, at 6-foot-7, is shorter than Plumlee but shares his ability to start plays through his passing and ballhandling. The obvious concern about using smaller lineups is exacerbating the team’s established struggle to rebound.