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Clippings: Filling the leadership void by committee

The currently star-less Clippers are all trying to punch above their weight.

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Los Angeles Clippers v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

It’s impossible not to notice Patrick Beverley when the Clippers are playing. If he’s on the court, he’s organizing his teammates on both ends of the floor. If he’s off the floor, he’s barking instructions and serving as a de facto assistant coach. His play speaks volumes, but his voice is also loud, and that voice is something the Clippers were missing in the first night of their six-game road trip.

As for who picked up the slack with Beverley — and Kawhi Leonard and Paul George — missing, Ivica Zubac said it was a team effort.

“Everyone, you know?” Zubac said postgame. “We’re a team with a lot of vets and everyone is very vocal and we got a lot of leaders on this team. We got Serge, Marcus, Lou, Nic, we got a lot of veteran players with a lot of experience. So with missing guys like Pat, and Kawhi and PG, we still got that veteran leadership out there and, yeah, everyone’s contributing.”

One other player who Zubac didn’t mention was Reggie Jackson, who was naturally forced to take on a leadership role as the point guard. Jackson has mentioned multiple times over the course of the season how important communication has been for him off the court with the coaching staff, and that it’s much easier to fill a role when those responsibilities are outlined. Similarly, he took it upon himself to communicate to his teammates on the court against the Hawks to get them in the right spots, whether that was entry passes to Ivica Zubac in the post or drive-and-kicks to the Clippers shooters. Despite missing their two best playmakers, the Clippers only had 12 turnovers in the loss.

Jackson also said that the team has been keeping in touch with their three starters, and that “they’re doing all they can to be the great leaders that they are, and that they continue to want to be.” A prime example of that came during the fourth quarter, when Zubac dunked to tie the game and force Atlanta to call timeout. Beverley was watching the game and wanted the world to know how proud he was of the Clippers center.

Beverley relayed the sentiment to Zubac himself postgame, and the fifth-year center made it clear that just because he’s not there in person, that doesn’t mean Beverley isn’t present.

“Pat texted me tight after the game and it’s been like that since I got to this team,” Zubac said. “Pat’s always been talking to me, always hyping me up, always trying to give me advice, trying to get me to play more aggressive. I can thank him a lot for where I’m at right now because with just his leadership and him being in my ear ever since I got here, I got that help to be a better player. We miss him but he’s still with us. He’s texting everyone, he’s talking to us and he’s a big presence in this team.”

Hopefully, Beverley and the other stars are also physical presences with the Clippers soon enough.

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