When the NBA announced that it would resume the 2019-20 season, the Clippers thought that this would finally be their chance to practice and play with their fully healthy roster after a season constantly interrupted by injury.
Unfortunately, the restart has been as tumultuous for the Clippers as the pre-hiatus portion of the season. Multiple players arrived late to the bubble, and three had to leave Orlando for family emergencies, leaving the Clippers consistently shorthanded, both in practice and in scrimmages.
The team can’t go as hard in practice without a full complement of players, making it difficult to execute plays and schemes at full speed. The Clippers’ third unit (Terance Mann, Rodney McGruder, Amir Coffey, Patrick Patterson, and Joakim Noah) gamely competes, as it did against Washington in the second scrimmage. However, going five-on-five with only 10 players means no one ever gets to rest, and that’s simply untenable.
“It’s a challenge because we only have 10 guys,” Doc Rivers said. “That makes it really challenging. There’s no breaks in practice, so you tend to not go as long. You feel like you don’t get half the stuff in that you want to get in. So no, it’s been a challenge. I’d love to say it hasn’t been, but it’s been a definite challenge.”
One of the ways the team has tried to keep absent players involved is by live-streaming practices on Zoom. That allows the coaches who weren’t part of the traveling party and the players who are in quarantine to stay up to date, at least mentally. Rivers said that Landry Shamet and Ivica Zubac have watched every single practice online thus far.
Virtual instruction is no substitute for actually playing together, however, and the Clippers acknowledge that they are once again playing catch up to get their roster on the same page, especially as members of their team have their own challenges to deal with in their personal lives.
“It’s hard right now,” JaMychal Green said. “We’ve got a lot of players that’s going through a lot right now. 2020 has just been a horrible year. We just try to take it one day at a time and just using what we got so far. Our players are coming back, they’re going to rejoin us, but it’s going to take time.”
Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams have both rejoined the bubble, though Williams’ quarantine will be extended, and Shamet and Zubac are both on campus. The finish line of a complete roster is in sight for the Clippers, and at least this time, they aren’t the only team going through these circumstances.
More news for Monday:
- The Athletic examined how players’ bodies will adjust to game speed after so much time off.
- Clippers assistant coach Rex Kalamian was on the Jr. NBA podcast to discuss skill development.
- Chris Haynes looked at how players on the bench will have to provide the atmosphere in fan-less games. For what it’s worth, Rivers thinks the players have always done a good job; they’re just drowned out by all the other noise in the arena.
- Paolo Uggetti wrote about the mental health challenges of living in the bubble.
- And finally, a story of persistence from Royce Young about one of my personal favorite NBA players: How Andre Roberson got back on the court after two and a half years away.