It’s a bit of both for the LA Clippers this season, keeping the band together and ringing in the changes.
Aside from departures from Montrezl Harrell and JaMychal Green, the core group remains intact for the upcoming NBA season, while some reinforcements like Serge Ibaka, Nicolas Batum and Luke Kennard come in. And while Tyronn Lue is the new head coach, he’s not a new face, having been promoted from assistant coach under Doc Rivers.
In talking to the press this week as training camp kicks off, the Clippers’ biggest stars, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, talked about what’s new for the new season.
Both players emphasized one of the new aspects this training camp is they’ll be able to participate this time around, after both had surgeries that limited them in the run-up to their first season in LA. Beyond that, the fresh blood on the roster is something Leonard is happy to have.
“Definitely they’re gonna help,” he told reporters during a conference call. “We brought in some good talents, some good vets with Serge and Batum. And, you know, we’ve brought some guys back from last year, pretty much know what we want to do, Serge will be good for us, be a rim protector. He’s been in big moments before, he can shoot the ball, and Batum just a good vet, very skilled, can shoot, pass, dribble, been in big moments, competed against him in the playoffs a few times. I think they can help.”
George made headlines earlier in the week for saying Rivers didn’t utilize him right in the offense and didn’t adjust enough in the playoffs — comments he walked back a bit in the press conference, saying the team took responsibility for their postseason collapse — but he sounded genuinely pleased at Lue’s offensive approach heading into the season.
“I just think it’s just added shooting on the floor, more space, more playmaking,” George explained. “And you know we’re able to stretch the floor a lot better especially with Serge at the five, and we go to a smaller lineup. I think just our ability to play-make now and just be dangerous in many different spots on the floor. You know it’ll be hard to load up on a single individual, so like last year I got a lot of great opportunities and a lot of great looks. This year I think we’ll have the same.”
Leonard backed that up, saying a priority in camp will be to hone the team’s collective basketball IQ.
“Just as far as basketball IQ, I mean just knowing when to throw the ball in the post or get a three or just talking or a lot of basketball situations: knowing shot clock, game clock, what certain plays to run in certain time, just everything pretty much.”
And now, the work really begins for the Clippers. With the same core but some key changes, that quest for their best season ever and ideally, an NBA title, begins in earnest.
Short offseason or not, George is ready to go.
“Excited to hoop. I’m excited to get back on the floor, start the season back off, get back to playing ball. I think that that’s what it comes down to, get back to being out on that floor playing with those guys,” he said.
Sabreena Merchant contributed reporting to this story.