As one door opens, another door closes. That phrase felt particularly applicable yesterday in Clipper land.
In this scenario, the opening came for Terance Mann, signing a two-year, $22 million extension to remain at STAPLES Center until 2025. When the end of that deal rolls around he’ll be 28 years old, so the Clippers could have, in theory, just secured their guy for his peak years — and if his recent progress is anything to go by, that could be a hugely exciting few years for both parties.
Yet given Mann’s personality, I’m sure he’d have still felt a tinge of sadness even on his big day after seeing that his former college and Clippers teammate Mfiondu Kabengele had another door closed on him. In case you missed it, Fi was waived by the Cleveland Cavaliers, the second time this year for the former Florida State Seminole. That was his third team in the league after he was traded to Sacramento back in March, though he’s not the only former Clip to have seen himself bouncing round the league via waivers, as Daniel Oturu has suffered a similar fate within the space of the past month.
The Kabengele news really brought home to me just how small the margins are in the league, how windows of opportunity can come and go in the blink of an eye, and how you need to be in the right place at the right time to seize them. Had Kawhi Leonard not gone down injured in the playoffs, Mann may still be weighing up his options on a deal which was non-guaranteed before next summer’s free agency. Leonard did go down though, and Mann stepped up in his place — the 39-point game against Utah the obvious highlight.
Kabengele never really got that luxury, and you can say what you want about his ability or his work ethic by comparison, but part of his misfortune will be the amount of change around the Clippers backup big positions since he was drafted.
Don’t forget that Fi was drafted in the first round as the 27th overall pick, in the exact same year that his Florida State teammate was picked up at 48. When they said getting drafted is the easy part before the real work starts, they really weren’t lying. This is the second time in Fi’s NBA career that he’s been cut from a roster before the end of his contract. That must take its toll on a guy who had the added pressure of having NBA Hall of Famer Dikembe Mutombo as an uncle, but hopefully his family can be the support network needed to get Kabengele back into the league.
Family has certainly been a huge factor in the rise of Mann, with his mother Daynia La-Force constantly there to offer advice at every twist and turn of his career. The Atlanta Dream assistant coach seems to not only be his biggest cheerleader when things are going well, but also the person he can turn to when they aren’t. Just a few weeks back, she organised a surprise for her son to meet his childhood hero Allen Iverson, while more recently Clippers assistant coach Dahntay Jones compared Mann’s skill set to that of Jimmy Butler. If he can get even halfway towards emulating either of those guys, there will be plenty more good times to come for this franchise.
Mann may have been written off as an NBA player by some, but the doubters will be far fewer by now — though he seems to thrive off the idea that there still are anyway, after he threw shade towards the latest GM’s survey highlighting him as a breakout star for this upcoming season. Meanwhile, Kabengele will have to recover from another huge setback and prove to the franchises that have doubted him that he can make it at the top level. Players have certainly come back from worse in the past.
Speaking after the confirmation of his contract extension yesterday, Mann said: “I hope I can be motivation for people who are in my position in the future or have been before.” Kabengele is a guy who is no stranger to the spots that his former teammate has been in and, although his current position will feel that little bit further away right now, hopefully he can use it as motivation.
I wish Fi all the best with whatever comes next and I hope he lands on his feet. As for Mann, he’ll be keeping his feet firmly on the ground, but the sky is the limit.