The Clippers were out of sorts during their October training camp. Although they had a championship-caliber roster on paper, they were missing a lot of pieces in the run-up to the season. Most notably, Paul George was out, still recovering from surgeries to both shoulders, and Kawhi Leonard had to sit out intermittently, as he hadn’t had a chance to work out all summer due to his rehab.
Now, the Clippers have been gifted a second training camp, one that is longer than the first iteration and also figures to be more fruitful. George feels healthier than he has in a Clippers uniform, and Leonard is similarly ready to go, and that means the Clippers can meaningfully use this time to get back to their pre-hiatus form.
“We really haven’t done much different than a normal practice during the season where you would do more skeleton work and less play,” Doc Rivers told the media Tuesday. “We’re all ramping up our play. I mean, listen, everyone keeps talking about injury. There’s nothing you can do about that. You practice, then we’re going to have scrimmages just like every other team. You hope you get through it. That’s the only way you can prepare for the season, is by playing.”
During the league’s suspension, Rivers preached that he wanted his team to “Win the Wait”. The Clippers even filed a trademark for the phrase. For players like Patrick Beverley, who view basketball as a year-round sport with no offseason, maintaining physical conditioning wasn’t a problem.
“For me basketball is a year-round sport, I don’t know anything about taking off,” Beverley said Tuesday. “I just been doing what I’ve been doing throughout the last couple years: working on my body, working on my craft, working on my mind, trying to make myself the best weapon possible.”
The rest of the Clippers have followed Beverley’s lead. Rivers said that though basketball conditioning will take some time, the team is is “really good shape”. They’ve been running 5-on-5 with high intensity, per Terance Mann, more than two weeks out from their first game.
Being in peak physical shape also means that the Clippers can focus on execution. They aren’t rolling out anything new for the restart, at least not too much, giving the players a chance to review.
“They look really good,” Rivers said. “Are we sharp? No, of course not. But we’re good. We’re picking up stuff. We don’t need to, like, install things. We need to review things. We are going to add a couple new wrinkles to some of the things we do. Overall, the retention has been amazing. That’s helped us because that means we can move on to something else, and that’s been very good for us.”
The Clippers have been pegged as title favorites heading into the seeding games and the postseason. It comes as no surprise that they have done the work to win the wait. Now comes the hard part of winning the franchise’s first NBA championship.