There were hundreds of people at the Clippers’ press conference for Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. There was a large gathering of media, of course, but also a whole group of kids who go to summer camp at the Green Meadows Recreation Center, where the presser was held, and dignitaries from the LA community. In addition, the Clippers brought almost the entire organization to the event: the front office, the coaching staff, the communications team, sales people, etc. It was, to some extent, a show of force, a sign of just how far the Clippers have come.
But all the talk at the press conference was about what still needs to be done. Doc Rivers, in his (exceptionally) short speech, said that today was “only the beginning”, and that “we want to be winners”. Lawrence Frank said Kawhi and George were brought in to win championships (plural), while Steve Ballmer emphatically stated that the only goal is to “win the last game played in the NBA season”. There was no aura of satisfaction, of having already succeeded. There was only the drive to do more, to get the championships that the NBA is all about.
Kawhi and PG were all about business, too. They continually praised the culture that the Clippers have built up over the last couple years, exemplified by the 48 win team last season. George, in particular, mentioned that as a reason that he was attracted to the Clippers, and emphasized repeatedly that he’s all about the team, and winning, with no ego. The term “Blacktop team” was used several times throughout the press conference, and it truly seems as if the Clippers will carry on the mentality and attitude that served them so well last year.
That’s not to say that nobody was having fun. Steve Ballmer was as pumped up as he always is, exhorting the crowd to a standing ovation and then pumping them up to a higher pitch of cheering. After Lawrence Frank said he was given cue cards so he wouldn’t “screw up”, Doc Rivers said that he wasn’t given any such cards “like Lawrence”, which prompted a laugh from Kawhi. Kawhi, in general, appeared to be having a good time, with plenty of smiling and laughing throughout the event. He even cracked a few jokes, saying that he didn’t put out any “paragraph” about thanking Toronto because he’s not on social media, and then shouting out the restaurants of the city for giving him free food during the Raptors playoff run. In short, everyone present was in great spirits.
This Clippers team is dreaming big. A question was asked about escaping the “shadow of the Lakers”, and both George and Kawhi essentially shrugged it off, saying that the Lakers are their own thing. PG mentioned that they have “bigger goals” in mind than the Lakers. The goal is not about taking over the city, or competing with the Lakers for media attention. It’s about winning multiple championships, and the entire organization is focused on making that happen.
It was a fun afternoon, a day of celebration for the Clippers’ organization and for Kawhi and PG, who truly seemed delighted to be returning home to play in front of and be with their family and friends. However, the overarching theme of the press conference was that the real work is yet to come. Fans can’t wait for the season to get started, and neither, it seems, can the Clippers or their new superstar players. Now, all we need to see is what exactly this team will look like in action.
It will be a long couple months until the NBA season gets underway, but Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are Clippers, and they, and the rest of the team, mean business.