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Clippers get Patrick Beverley back, but Serge Ibaka has no timeline

The good news for the Clippers: Patrick Beverley was available to play Tuesday night against the Toronto Raptors.

The not-unexpected caveat: The fiery guard would be on a minutes limit.

The not-at-all-good news? Center Serge Ibaka is nowhere near as close to returning from the back injury – “lower back tightness,” the Clippers call it – that’s kept him out since March 15, a span of 26 games and counting.

“Don’t have a potential return date,” Lue said of the 6-foot-10 center’s ongoing rehab. “I know Serge has been doing everything in his power, five, six, seven hours a day of just rehabbing, trying to get himself back and seeing him on the floor the last few times playing four-on-four, five-on-five, just trying to get used to getting hit again, getting banged, the physicality of the game,” Lue said.

The former Raptor signed a two-year, $19 million deal with the Clippers in free agency, re-teaming with Kawhi Leonard, with whom he won an NBA title in Toronto. Before his back injury, Ibaka started all 39 games he appeared in this season, and he was averaging 10.9 points and 6.7 rebounds.

“It’s gonna take some time, especially when you come off the situation that he’s going through right now,” Lue said. “And that’s to be expected, but for him to be out there on the floor is a positive for us right now. But we don’t have a return date as of right now.”

If it’s to happen, the Clippers’ runway to get Ibaka up to speed before the playoffs is short: After Tuesday, they have just six games left before their regular-season finale on May 16.

To bolster their interior, the Clippers brought aboard decorated veteran DeMarcus Cousins, signing him for the remainder of the season on April 26 – a decision for which he’s rewarded them with 16 points in each of his appearances since.

At the same time, Beverley’s return from a broken metacarpal bone, for which he had surgery on April 9, should help beef up the perimeter, especially defensively.

The Clippers – 43-22 entering play Tuesday – were 7-4 while Beverley’s hand healed. They’re 22-12 overall without him this season.

Beverley’s hand was broken on a rebound attempt against Phoenix on April 8, a setback that occurred in just his second game back after he had missed 12 consecutive games with knee soreness that cropped up on March 14 against Golden State. Knee “soreness” has cost him 20 games total this season.

On Tuesday, the three-time NBA All-Defensive team selection, whose “dog mentality” is contagious, fellow Clippers guard Reggie Jackson said, was going to be held to an unspecified minutes limit off the bench, or so Lue insisted.

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