As Luke Kennard has fallen out of the rotation in favor of Terance Mann and Reggie Jackson, one constant refrain has emerged about Kennard’s struggles: he isn’t aggressive enough in the offense. Mann and Jackson may not be as efficient as Kennard, but they make quick decisions, and the Clippers want Kennard to play free.
They finally got that version of Kennard against the Wizards Thursday, when he scored 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting and added four assists. The Clippers outscored Washington by 23 points in Kennard’s 21 minutes.
“He was great, just being confident, looked comfortable out there on the floor,” Ty Lue said postgame. “Defensively he was pretty good. He came in and stayed ready, being a professional, continuing to work on his game. He was great for us. I was happy to see Luke play well.”
It was refreshing to see Kennard look to score. He’s such a good shooter that he doesn’t always need to reset the offense; he can simply get his points when the defense is focused on other players on the court. He didn’t pass up shots or second-guess anything. He attacked, and good things happened.
When Kennard is playing well, some flair starts to appear in his game. These no-look passes that he made to Kawhi Leonard and Ivica Zubac have been absent for most of the season, but Kennard was confidently making these reads all night.
“I think the first thing that comes to mind is aggressiveness, more aggressive than I have been the last few times I’ve played,” Kennard said when asked to evaluate his play. “Learning Paul was going to be out, knew I was going to have a chance to get in there, so just coming in with some energy and being aggressive on both ends of the floor, attacking rebounds and being aggressive, looking to shoot my shot. So definitely better than it has been recently, and just a game I can grow off of.”
Kennard said that it’s been an adjustment fitting into a new team and finding his role while also being as aggressive as the coaches want him to be. Add to that coming back from a year-long basketball absence, and it’s understandable that it has taken some time for Kennard to find his footing.
But the Clippers have invested in him, giving him a four-year extension pregame, and there’s definitely talent to work with. This was a good performance to end a disappointing first half of the season, one that shows what he is capable of heading into the All-Star Break.
More news for Friday:
- The two All-Star teams will be playing for the United Negro College Fund and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. The NBA also released a peek of the court, and the special headphones used for courtside interviews.
Some other cool stuff from the league's announcement: Players at All-Star are gonna use these special Beats headphones designed by a Florida A&M student for courtside interviews. Fans (both in-person & virtual) will include a mix of frontline workers and HBCU alumni/students. pic.twitter.com/qPUETc9bqi— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) March 4, 2021
- Another cool detail about the All-Star Game: All three of the referees are graduates of HBCUs for the first time.
- Lou Williams reiterated that the Clippers will be his last NBA stop.
- The best way to beat a switch is with a slip, or is it? Seerat Sohi writes about slipping screens and how defenses have evolved to counter the tactic.
- Old friend Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has become an elite shot-maker. Brian Schroeder gets into the third-year guard’s ascendance.