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The new-era Clippers are adding an injection of youth to a veteran roster

The Clippers youngsters gave them a much-needed boost in the win against the Kings, and they have shown they can bring a positive impact to this squad.

LA Clippers v Sacramento Kings
Amir Coffey helps Paul George return to his feet in their win against the Kings
Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

It’s been a less-than-ideal run up to Christmas for the Los Angeles Clippers. Over the past week they lost three games in a row, the great return of Paul George was overshadowed by an embarrassing loss to the Spurs, and Marcus Morris Sr.’s designation into the health and safety protocol was followed by the same fate for Reggie Jackson.

It’s been an up and down season in general for the Western Conference’s fifth-placed team, with a 17-15 record, and they have found themselves having to dig into reserves that they didn’t need at their lowest points last season. With that, there have been some lower moments than we might’ve expected, as they’ve been running on the fumes of that same good feeling, energy, and effort that became their calling card to dig them out of several holes in 2020-21.

However, with this year’s Clippers vintage staring into the abyss of a first four-game losing streak since January 2019, they managed to pull themselves together and secure a blowout win against a shorthanded Sacramento Kings team. It may not seem like a lot to celebrate on the surface — after all the Kings had as many as seven players in health and safety protocols and a bespectacled Richaun Holmes was a late addition to the lineup after missing seven games with a right eye laceration. Yet once you dig into how the game was won and the factors around it, you can make a case that it could prove to be a marker for this squad within this crazy campaign.

Serge Ibaka’s 17-point display was one which wouldn’t have necessarily stood out last season, but under the current circumstances that surround his role in the team, it was a much-needed performance. More interesting than that, though, were his quotes about why he felt so settled playing among the second unit with the younger guys on the roster thanks to his time in the G League as he came back from his injury. The fact the one-time NBA champion was not only prepared to drop down to its development league in order to aid his recovery, but also saw it as a chance to further his rapport with his Agua Caliente Clippers teammates to the benefit of Ty Lue’s squad, shows the mentality that has been fostered within this group.

We’ve already seen George and Brandon Boston Jr. strike up a seemingly unlikely friendship off the court this season, but it would appear that it extends beyond the Clippers’ leading veteran and rookie. Boston has been a vocal member of the bench and an infectious personality within the locker room, and this could be the first big sign that his fellow youngsters are also starting to have a positive impact on the team’s mentality and performances. Given the difference in approach to the draft this year, perhaps there’s a case to be made that the front office saw the boost a few young heads could provide to a veteran roster that often relies on its energy and effort.

Against the Kings, the performances of Amir Coffey and Keon Johnson were standouts, with the latter only finding out he’d be a part of the squad on the morning of the game before catching a flight to Sacramento to join the team. Coffey has been in and around the team for a little while now, and his eight fast-break points in the win were absolutely crucial towards the 213 taking the game away from their opponents — who finished with just six fast-break points in total. The return of Moses Wright on a hardship exception also feels like it could come to be a factor in the positive youth movement making its way through a team who once looked like they were committed to only adding veteran signings to their championship contention push.

Although the chances of this team being ready for a deep playoff run look more unlikely than at the start of the year, this franchise should take pride in the way it continues to harness the spirit around its squad. It’s unlikely to be the young guys who make a telling impact on the team’s win percentage or eventual playoff seeding, but they have the chance to provide a positive boost which can make our veteran squad feel and look young again.