The LA Clippers finished their preseason slate Thursday with a 125-105 loss against the Utah Jazz at the Staples Center. Most of the regulars played and once again, Tyronn Lue spread the playing time out among his team as they tune up for Tuesday’s season opener.
Unlike pretty much every other season, when players know the rhythms of the NBA season and can calibrate between resting and relaxing and getting in shape for the next grind, the 2020-21 season and scheduling has been unpredictable, something Clippers guard Lou Williams admitted after the game.
“I think we understand it was a quick turnaround, and we were at home chilling a month ago, a lot of us,” Williams told reporters postgame. “We didn’t really have a lot of time to get a confirmed date when the season was going to start. I felt like some guys were probably working out, some probably weren’t. And now it’s go time, and you know with the quick turnaround I think a lot of us are just mentally ready to get to the season and play the games.”
The Clippers were winless in their three preseason games. Obviously the point of preseason is not necessarily to win games but to get some playing time as a group and gear up for the games that count. Still, with play at times looking predictably sloppy, Williams’ point may hint that the Clippers will need some time once the regular season starts to find rhythm as a group.
Lue admitted building his system will take some time.
“I’ll say everyone has a shortened [off]season,” he said. “But a lot of teams have been together longer than we have, so it’s gonna be a process and take some time. But we’re ready to start our season on Tuesday...We just have to keep building and working towards our goal.”
As you would expect from a young player looking to break through, Mfiondu Kabangele was not daunted by the unexpected elements of the schedule.
“It’s been definitely different, but I feel like everyone on this team, staff, is doing a really good job. The staff has been amazing, accommodating us, helping us out, making our experience as great as possible and all we gotta do is show up and play ball. So it’s been overall a great effort by everybody,” he said.
Kabangele’s been seeing some real playing time in the preseason, with a chance he could see a bigger role under Lue in the coming season.
“My role with this team is just to get better,” said the second-year pro. “And I know my time is gonna come. I just gotta focus on getting better, knowing the offense, getting defensive schemes, because things are gonna happen with this season — especially with COVID, and things are ever changing. My time is gonna come, so I’m not worried.”
Here’s more news for Friday:
- NBA investigating Clippers: The news that a local man is suing Jerry West for allegedly not paying him $2.5 million for helping the team land Kawhi Leonard in free agency has led to the NBA investigating West and the Clippers. The team issued a denial of any impropriety.
- Steve Ballmer speaks about shy start, new arena: The Clippers team owner spoke to ESPN’s Rachel Nichols on TV, and it gives you both a peek beyond his enthusiasm on the court and some context for what he thinks the new arena in Inglewood will do for the team.
An entertaining conversation with the one & only Steve Ballmer - did you know he used to be so painfully shy he would hyperventilate before having to speak out loud in class? (Really) We also of course talk Clippers - the meltdown in the Bubble, and where the team goes from here: pic.twitter.com/i8F2z2vYBg— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) December 17, 2020
- Ballmer voted best owner: A poll of “NBA insiders” by The Athletic resulted in Ballmer being considered the top owner in the league. Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé was voted worst of the lot.
- Coach’s challenge remains, rosters expanded: The NBA Board of Governors approved both the continuation of coach’s challenges for the upcoming season, and expanded rosters of 15 for games. The latter provision was approved in an attempt to prevent schedule disruptions if players test positive for coronavirus during the season (as widely expected).
- G League still planning to happen: Nothing is certain but the NBA is determined to proceed with the G League season. ESPN reports the developmental league could play a short season from January-March in a bubble format in Atlanta. The Clippers’ team was previously reported to be planning to play, but the G League has asked for a handful of teams to drop out for the season because the proposed bubble can’t accommodate all the current teams.