PLAYA VISTA—The Clippers officially opened the 2018-19 season with the team’s media day Monday, which means basketball is oh-so-close to gracing our lives once again.
It also means that there is a good deal of Clippers news to catch up on. Here are some of the most interesting tidbits Clips Nation picked up from the opening press conference of the season.
Everyone is healthy.
If you were worried about the most injury-ravaged campaign of recent memory having lingering effects on this season, fear not! Every Clipper is perfectly healthy, including Patrick Beverley, Milos Teodosic, and Danilo Gallinari (though he was sporting a more lumbering gait than I would prefer). Not a single one expressed any concern about their injury status affecting their availability for training camp and beyond. Then again, as Doc Rivers said, “Everyone is healthy in September and October.”
The Clippers want to be known as a tough, physical team.
Montrezl Harrell put it best: “When you come to the play the Clippers, you’re going to be exhausted, you’re going to be fatigued, you’re going to be emotionally drained.”
Although the Clippers are lacking the top-end talent they have had in past years—notably, no current player has ever made an All-Star team—their depth makes it such that they will be a tough out on any given night. Each position has at least two capable rotation players. Beverley said, “I’ve never seen a team this deep with the amount of toughness we have.” Luc Mbah a Moute said that the competitiveness of the Clippers was part of what drew him back to Los Angeles, and he had just spent a season on a championship contender. Lou Williams added, “Even with the injuries, we still competed at a high level every night.”
The Clippers are hopeful that the toughness is most evident on the defensive end.
Welcome to “Clamp City”.
Lob City is officially gone now that DeAndre Jordan is in Dallas, although Ralph Lawler—the soundtrack of that era—remains for one more season. In lieu of that moniker, Beverley has adopted the new nickname “Clamp City” in reference to the perimeter defense of himself, Avery Bradley, and Mbah a Moute. The presumptive starting backcourt of Beverley and Bradley may be lacking in the shot-creation and ball-handling departments, but the pair, as well as Mbah a Moute, are among the preeminent defenders at their positions. After years of being an offense-first outfit, the Clippers are ready to flip the narrative.
Mbah a Moute said he used to have a notebook with the tendencies of all of the top players in the league that he studied before games. Afterwards, he would write notes on how he tried to defend them and what adjustments he could make for the next meeting. His goal was to make the stars he guarded have to try new things because he already knew all of their existing moves. Bradley emphasized the effort that defense requires, especially against the best players in the game.
Ty Wallace wasn’t in attendance.
The Clippers have 15 players with fully guaranteed contracts, one player (Wallace) with a partially-guaranteed deal, and then Beverley. Beverley and Wallace’s contracts fully guarantee on January 10, 2019. They have also gave an Exhibit 10 contract to Desi Rodriguez. If you’re doing the math, three of those players will have to be gone from the roster by the time the season starts.
Rodriguez seems like an inevitable cut, but Wallace’s position appeared a little more stable after the Clippers matched his offer sheet from the New Orleans Pelicans. However, 16 players were available for media day, and Wallace was not one of them. Rodriguez and the two-ways (Angel Delgado and Johnathan Motley) were also not present. There has been no official statement on Wallace’s absence, but it doesn’t appear to bode well for his future with the Clippers.
Editor’s Note: Ty Wallace, Desi Rodriguez, Johnathan Motley, and Angel Delgado were all present at media day, but were not available for media sessions due to time constraints.
Sindarius Thornwell and Jawun Evans have some interesting scouting ideas.
Thornwell and Evans, who also figure to be battling with Wallace for the final roster spots, talked about using NBA 2K to help them learn their opponents’ tendencies on the court. They both said 2K was like a “cheat code” for real-life basketball, and their teammate Beverley has chided them in games for not knowing details that would be obvious from 2K.
Thornwell said, “If a guy plays 2K, he already has a scouting report against a guy in real life, so it’s definitely a cheat code. Pat says it all the time in the games: ‘Man, you don’t play 2K? He can’t go left.’ He says it all the time in games.”
The second-year guard did acknowledge that 2K makes errors, like labeling Thornwell as a shooter from all over the floor even though he doesn’t have that skill in real life. But both Thornwell and Evans were insistent that there was real knowledge to gain from their video game. At the very least, watching the pair interact at the podium suggests that there is another strong bromance in Clipperland to rival that of Tobias Harris and Boban Marjanovic.
One of the most powerful statements wasn’t about basketball.
Doc Rivers may not be the most political figure in the NBA. He admits to not being as outspoken as he could have been in the past. But he hasn’t shied away from big moments when they present themselves, such as during the Donald Sterling fiasco in 2014, and Rivers took another strong stance Monday. When asked about if he encourages his players to pursue off-the-court activities, Rivers said:
“I don’t get political very often, but we better all go vote.... We have to go vote. We have to go register. We have to go vote. Black men have to go vote. I think 7 percent of black men voted for the president. 7 percent. And we have to do better.”
The Clippers start training camp today in Hawaii.