It’s been more than four months since the Clippers played their last game, but the mission that was set at the beginning of the season still remains the exact same.
“I think we’ve got a veteran group, and we’ve got guys that know what our mission is,” Paul George said to the media on Saturday.
The mission? Winning the first championship in the history of the franchise.
As of right now, things looks as if they’ll be a little difficult. The team is currently missing four players, after Montrezl Harrell left the bubble yesterday to attend to a family matter. Landry Shamet, who had Coronavirus, has still yet to report to camp, though his quarantine should be over and he should be returning to the team soon. There is still no update on the whereabouts of Ivica Zubac and Marcus Morris.
Missing guys is nothing new for the Clippers, as they’ve only had a fully healthy roster for a handful of games.
“You know, we’ve been down and missed guys pretty much all season long, so we’ve been filling it in,” George said. “We’ve been holding it down until everybody has been available, and we plan on continuing to do so.”
The Clippers were rolling prior to the end of the regular season. They had won seven of their last eight games and had defeated teams like the Rockets, Nuggets, Thunder and 76ers. Though it’s been some time, George doesn’t think it’ll take long for the team to pick up from where they left off.
“Again, we’re a group that knows why we’re here, what we’re competing for,” he said. “I think for us it’s just putting us in that environment, putting us out there, and we’re going to get the job done. Again, this is a pretty focused group, and we’re prepared for everything.”
The suspension of the season came at the worst possible time. As I mentioned, the Clippers had won seven of their previous eight games, and everyone was fully healthy for the first time all season. With players missing time due to injury in addition to adding new players along the way, it was tough to just put everything on hold.
“It was a little frustrating because we played our way all the way up until that point, we played ourselves into that chemistry, into that zone we were in,” George said. “We were getting guys healthy. You know, that was really the team coming together. We added Reggie [Jackson], we added Marcus [Morris], and we were starting to mold and shape and learn each other. It was tough to take this little break.
“But I think ultimately it’s going to pay off. Again, we had so many guys dealing with little nicks and bruises, and we were one of the teams that could have benefitted off of the healing process and coming together healthy. This break did wonders for this group, and we’re going to pick up where we left off at.”
Though they weren’t playing together on the court, the Clippers were still in contact every day through group texts and Zoom. They were videoing themselves working out, pushing and motivating each other. They were making sure they were staying in shape by doing suicides and conditioning drills.
“We just stayed locked in,” George said. “I almost thought that we grew even stronger being further away from each other, because again, we knew what was at stake this year, and we knew what we had, and we didn’t want to lose that. I thought we did an amazing job of just staying together, staying as a group, and again, continuing to push each other to get better.”