The LA Clippers made a few additions in the offseason, and two in particular have started in top form, and on an almost nightly basis.
Veterans Nicolas Batum and Serge Ibaka joined the Clippers in contrasting points in their careers. Ibaka was a coveted free agent around the league after a successful run with the Toronto Raptors, while Batum was largely considered effectively done in his NBA career after a nondescript stint with the Charlotte Hornets.
But both players have been regulars in the starting lineup, and more importantly, they’ve had an immediate impact. So far this season, Batum or Ibaka often lead the Clippers in scoring coming out of the 1st quarter, and the experienced players seem to be playing a “microwave” role of sorts for the team, to help them get out to a hot start and set the tone for the game.
It’s working because the support pieces do their damage in the opening minutes, before Paul George and Kawhi Leonard assume the reins and lead LA for the rest of the game. It’s not a perfect system, but it seems to be working more often than not under Ty Lue so far.
Batum noted at practice this week that he and Ibaka can communicate together in French, allowing them to get a leg up on the competition.
“Every game. Literally, every game we do that,” Batum said. “I think it was in Phoenix, when, on a free throw situation, we were talking in French and Jae Crowder look at us, it was like, ‘Should be illegal to do that.’ I mean, we use it as advantage sometimes to — we ask, sometimes we can stay stuff people can’t really understand, especially like doing so much on defense, or we’re gonna still doing it for sure, we still do it.”
Both players have been an upgrade so far this season for the Clippers, and the team will hope the vets will continue to set the tone from the opening tipoff.
More news for this Friday:
- Behind Batum’s resurgence: Here’s a great deep dive from Dan Devine at The Ringer into what is different for Batum in LA and how he’s making a difference on the floor.
- Friday’s injury report: Two new names on the list — Lou Williams (hip) and Patrick Beverley (personal) listed as questionable against the Sacramento Kings. Williams hurt his hip Wednesday against the New Orleans Pelicans and was held out in the 2nd half.
- Rockets say ‘Bye Felicia’: It’s not altogether surprising, but after James Harden’s acrimonious departure from the Houston Rockets, his former teammates are glad he’s gone, with Eric Gordon the latest to speak up.
- A look back at the 1984 Olympic trials: If you want a longer read, this profile in The Athletic on the 1984 U.S. men’s basketball Olympic trials is fascinating, a behind-the-scenes look at Bobby Knight and a slew of future stars who made it through the process (and didn’t).