Blake Griffin- In three preseason games so far, Blake struggled against the Warriors, dominated the Raptors, and was solid against the Jazz. Far more important than his actual play is the fact that he hasn’t looked hobbled at all. There were rumors swirling all summer that Blake’s injury problems might last longer than expected—right now, those murmurings appear to be unfounded. He is moving around well on the court, and has already dunked all over several opposing players. While it’s certainly possible that he might be more prone to injuries in the future, the short-term outlook is bright.
Even better, Blake has demonstrated his improved range on the court: he has already taken four three-pointers in preseason, and hasn’t exactly played huge minutes. His career high for threes attempted was all the way back in 2013-2014, when he took 44. Expect him to shatter that mark this season. A good benchmark for Blake would be Al Horford, who made 88 shots from deep last season after having never made more than 11 previously. If Blake can hit around one three-pointer per game, the floor would open up immensely. So far, the results of his offseason training in this area are certainly positive.
Paul Pierce- The Truth has only played in two of the three preseason games, and totaled a mere 18 minutes on the court between them. Doc’s early rotations (as well as reports from training camp) indicate that his main bench lineup will feature two true big men. Brandon Bass and Marreese Speights are therefore firmly ahead of Pierce in the primary rotation. However, Doc will go small at some point, and when he does, Pierce is in the mix for minutes at power forward. Wes Johnson is going to get playing time regardless, but if Alan Anderson is injured, or Doc wants more shooting than Luc Mbah a Moute can provide, we are probably going to see Pierce get real minutes. This is bad, as Pierce was one of the worst rotation players in the NBA last year (I don’t think we need a re-hash, as this has been discussed time and again on here). Let’s hope that Pierce playing in the preseason is just Doc trying to keep him somewhat ready for an emergency situation and to get him familiar with his new teammates. If not… well, things could get ugly.
Brice Johnson Injury- A few days ago, it was announced that Brice Johnson had a severely herniated disc in his back and was out indefinitely. Now, this news won’t necessarily harm the Clippers as a team that much. Brice was out of the rotation and not particularly close to entering it (surprisingly, fellow rookie Diamond Stone surged ahead of him on the depth chart during training camp). While he does provide depth down the roster and could have brought some energy to the team, he most likely would have been inactive or down in the D-League even if healthy. No, this injury doesn’t impact the Clippers’ grand outlook much at all.
The injury does, however, have a huge influence on Brice himself. Preseason is huge for rookies, who need all the game and practice time available to prepare themselves for real NBA action. Brice will be deprived of these crucial minutes, and by the time he returns, the season will be in full swing. This limits practice time, which will in turn harm his ability to fully understand the Clippers’ offensive and defensive schemes. Herniated discs can last quite a while, and it is possible that Brice will need surgery. Even if he doesn’t, the injury makes it very unlikely he will play meaningful minutes for the Clippers this year. Worse, it is going to stunt his development at least a little bit. Hopefully he recovers quickly and fully, and gets a shot to see what he can do sometime this year.