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Clippings: 10 thoughts for 10 Clippers games

Here’s what stands out at the first check-in of the season.

Portland Trail Blazers v LA Clippers Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

After an uneven start to the season, the Clippers are 6-4, in a three-way tie for fifth in the Western Conference. Here are 10 thoughts about the Clippers through their first 10 games.

  • Paul George is as good as he has ever been. While the rest of the team took some time to get up to speed, George came out on fire and has stayed that way. He paces the Clippers offensively with his scoring and with the highest assist percentage of his career.

George has also been a menace defensively, whether that’s providing resistance at the point of attack or protecting the rim as the low man. He should be in line for a first-team all-NBA selection for the second time in his career.

  • Nicolas Batum has been the second-most important player. The Clippers didn’t lose their first two games because Batum didn’t start, but increasing Batum’s minutes is always a good thing. He fills in every gap possible and is “the glue for our team”, as Reggie Jackson put it. Every squad in the NBA would love to have a veteran who can play every position; who can shoot, pass, and defend; and does it all with no concern for his own stats. Batum has been indispensable.
  • Terance Mann should be starting. It’s great that Ty Lue has kept him on the court for as many fourth-quarter minutes as possible — Mann has played 112 out of a possible 120 — but he should be playing at the beginning, too. Mann is one of the team’s five best players, and he has a better net rating with George than any other Clipper. Rather than needing Mann’s energy to spark the club off the bench, the team could just get off to better starts with Mann on the court.
  • So long as he isn’t starting, the duo of Mann and Luke Kennard is a treat to watch. Their chemistry, specifically in transition, has been well worth the wait after Kennard struggled in his first year with the Clippers.
2021 NBA Playoffs - Utah Jazz v Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers love a good bench duo.
Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images
  • Isaiah Hartenstein has been the best player in the NBA signed to a training camp deal this year, and it’s not even close. He has been more than just Serge Ibaka insurance — he’s actually made a meaningful impact on the team’s execution and has been a positive plus-minus in every game he’s appeared in. Batum noted that the Clippers even ran their offense through Hartenstein against Portland when George had to sit with foul trouble.
  • The other bench frontcourt addition, Justise Winslow, hasn’t had as seamless of a transition. It’s hard for a non-shooter to succeed on the Clippers if he doesn’t have the ball in his hands or isn’t a center. Marcus Morris Sr. can’t come back soon enough to soak up those minutes.
  • It would be fun to see the rookies play. They’re definitely not ready to play at the level the Clippers need, but Keon Johnson, Jason Preston, and Brandon Boston are all missed.
  • Dan Craig is a savant. The Clippers are missing Kawhi Leonard and still have the third-best defense in the league. Everyone up and down the roster deserves their credit, from Eric Bledsoe on lead guards to Batum on wings, Ivica Zubac in the middle, and Paul George everywhere. The level of activity from the group is noteworthy, especially since a similar roster didn’t get to league-average defense until after the All-Star break last year.
2021 NBA Playoffs - LA Clippers v Phoenix Suns
Ty Lue consistently credits assistants Dan Craig and Brendan O’Connor (not pictured) for the team’s defensive game plans and adjustments.
Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images
  • The rest of the coaching staff hasn’t missed a beat, despite the offseason changes. George has continued his playmaking evolution even without Chauncey Billups. Zubac is still doing big man things without Roy Rogers; now, he’s under the tutelage of Jay Larranaga. The jury is out on the player development front without Kenny Atkinson, since the youngest Clippers haven’t had much playing time, but Mann still looks great while working with Shaun Fein.
  • The Clippers are 4-1 in their blue jerseys, which they did not wear for the entirety of the 2021 postseason. Still, a logo/color rebrand can’t come soon enough.

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